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    Chapter 12

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    Chapter 13
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    CHAPTER XII - MORNING CALLS

    'Well--I suppose we must.'

    FRIENDS IN COUNCIL.

    Mr. Thornton had had some difficulty in working up his mother to
    the desired point of civility. She did not often make calls; and
    when she did, it was in heavy state that she went through her
    duties. Her son had given her a carriage; but she refused to let
    him keep horses for it; they were hired for the solemn occasions,
    when she paid morning or evening visits. She had had horses for
    three days, not a fortnight before, and had comfortably 'killed
    off' all her acquaintances, who might now put themselves to
    trouble and expense in their turn. Yet Crampton was too far off
    for her to walk; and she had repeatedly questioned her son as to
    whether his wish that she should call on the Hales was strong
    enough to bear the expense of cab-hire. She would have been
    thankful if it had not; for, as she said, 'she saw no use in
    making up friendships and intimacies with all the teachers and
    masters in Milton; why, he would be wanting her to call on
    Fanny's dancing-master's wife, the next thing!'

    'And so I would, mother, if Mr. Mason and his wife were friend
    less in a strange place, like the Hales.'

    'Oh! you need not speak so hastily. I am going to-morrow. I only
    wanted you exactly to understand about it.'

    'If you are going to-morrow, I shall order horses.'

    'Nonsense, John. One would think you were made of money.'

    'Not quite, yet. But about the horses I'm determined. The last
    time you were out in a cab, you came home with a headache from
    the jolting.'

    'I never complained of it, I'm sure.'

    'No. My mother is not given to complaints,' said he, a little
    proudly. 'But so much the more I have to watch over you. Now as
    for Fanny there, a little hardship would do her good.'

    'She is not made of the same stuff as you are, John. She could
    not bear it.' Mrs. Thornton was silent after this; for her last
    words bore relation to a subject which mortified her. She had an
    unconscious contempt for a weak character; and Fanny was weak in
    the very points in which her mother and brother were strong. Mrs.
    Thornton was not a woman much given to reasoning; her quick
    judgment and firm resolution served her in good stead of any long
    arguments and discussions with herself; she felt instinctively
    that nothing could strengthen Fanny to endure hardships
    patiently, or face difficulties bravely; and though she winced as
    she made this acknowledgment to herself about her daughter, it
    only gave her a kind of pitying tenderness of manner towards her;
    much of the same description of demeanour with which mothers are
    wont to treat their weak and sickly children. A stranger, a
    careless observer might have considered that Mrs. Thornton's
    manner to her children betokened far more love to Fanny than to
    John. But such a one would have been deeply mistaken. The very
    daringness with which mother and son spoke out unpalatable
    truths, the one to the other, showed a reliance on the firm
    centre of each other's souls, which the uneasy tenderness of Mrs.
    Thornton's manner to her daughter, the shame with which she
    thought to hide the poverty of her child in all the grand
    qualities which she herself possessed unconsciously, and which
    she set so high a value upon in others--this shame, I say,
    betrayed the want of a secure resting-place for her affection.
    She never called her son by any name but John; 'love,' and
    'dear,' and such like terms, were reserved for Fanny. But her
    heart gave thanks for him day and night; and she walked proudly
    among women for his sake.

    'Fanny dear I shall have horses to the carriage to-day, to go and
    call on these Hales. Should not you go and see nurse? It's in the
    same direction, and she's always so glad to see you. You could go
    on there while I am at Mrs. Hale's.'

    'Oh! mamma, it's such a long way, and I am so tired.'

    'With what?' asked Mrs. Thornton, her brow slightly contracting.

    'I don't know--the weather, I think. It is so relaxing. Couldn't
    you bring nurse here, mamma? The carriage could fetch her, and
    she could spend the rest of the day here, which I know she would
    like.'

    Mrs. Thornton did not speak; but she laid her work on the table,
    and seemed to think.

    'It will be a long way for her to walk back at night!' she
    remarked, at last.

    'Oh, but I will send her home in a cab. I never thought of her
    walking.' At this point, Mr. Thornton came in, just before going
    to the mill.

    'Mother! I need hardly say, that if there is any little thing
    that could serve Mrs. Hale as an invalid, you will offer it, I'm
    sure.'

    'If I can find it out, I will. But I have never been ill myself,
    so I am not much up to invalids' fancies.'

    'Well! here is Fanny then, who is seldom without an ailment. She
    will be able to suggest something, perhaps--won't you, Fan?'

    'I have not always an ailment,' said Fanny, pettishly; 'and I am
    not going with mamma. I have a headache to-day, and I shan't go
    out.'

    Mr. Thornton looked annoyed. His mother's eyes were bent on her
    work, at which she was now stitching away busily.

    'Fanny! I wish you to go,' said he, authoritatively. 'It will do
    you good, instead of harm. You will oblige me by going, without
    my saying anything more about it.'

    He went abruptly out of the room after saying this.

    If he had staid a minute longer, Fanny would have cried at his
    tone of command, even when he used the words, 'You will oblige
    me.' As it was, she grumbled.

    'John always speaks as if I fancied I was ill, and I am sure I
    never do fancy any such thing. Who are these Hales that he makes
    such a fuss about?'

    'Fanny, don't speak so of your brother. He has good reasons of
    some kind or other, or he would not wish us to go. Make haste and
    put your things on.'

    But the little altercation between her son and her daughter did
    not incline Mrs. Thornton more favourably towards 'these Hales.'
    Her jealous heart repeated her daughter's question, 'Who are
    they, that he is so anxious we should pay them all this
    attention?' It came up like a burden to a song, long after Fanny
    had forgotten all about it in the pleasant excitement of seeing
    the effect of a new bonnet in the looking-glass.

    Mrs. Thornton was shy. It was only of late years that she had had
    leisure enough in her life to go into society; and as society she
    did not enjoy it. As dinner-giving, and as criticising other
    people's dinners, she took satisfaction in it. But this going to
    make acquaintance with strangers was a very different thing. She
    was ill at ease, and looked more than usually stern and
    forbidding as she entered the Hales' little drawing-room.

    Margaret was busy embroidering a small piece of cambric for some
    little article of dress for Edith's expected baby--'Flimsy,
    useless work,' as Mrs. Thornton observed to herself. She liked
    Mrs. Hale's double knitting far better; that was sensible of its
    kind. The room altogether was full of knick-knacks, which must
    take a long time to dust; and time to people of limited income
    was money. She made all these reflections as she was talking in
    her stately way to Mrs. Hale, and uttering all the stereotyped
    commonplaces that most people can find to say with their senses
    blindfolded. Mrs. Hale was making rather more exertion in her
    answers, captivated by some real old lace which Mrs. Thornton
    wore; 'lace,' as she afterwards observed to Dixon, 'of that old
    English point which has not been made for this seventy years, and
    which cannot be bought. It must have been an heir-loom, and shows
    that she had ancestors.' So the owner of the ancestral lace
    became worthy of something more than the languid exertion to be
    agreeable to a visitor, by which Mrs. Hale's efforts at
    conversation would have been otherwise bounded. And presently,
    Margaret, racking her brain to talk to Fanny, heard her mother
    and Mrs. Thornton plunge into the interminable subject of
    servants.

    'I suppose you are not musical,' said Fanny, 'as I see no piano.'

    'I am fond of hearing good music; I cannot play well myself; and
    papa and mamma don't care much about it; so we sold our old piano
    when we came here.'

    'I wonder how you can exist without one. It almost seems to me a
    necessary of life.'

    'Fifteen shillings a week, and three saved out of them!' thought
    Margaret to herself 'But she must have been very young. She
    probably has forgotten her own personal experience. But she must
    know of those days.' Margaret's manner had an extra tinge of
    coldness in it when she next spoke.

    'You have good concerts here, I believe.'

    'Oh, yes! Delicious! Too crowded, that is the worst. The
    directors admit so indiscriminately. But one is sure to hear the
    newest music there. I always have a large order to give to
    Johnson's, the day after a concert.'

    'Do you like new music simply for its newness, then?'

    'Oh; one knows it is the fashion in London, or else the singers
    would not bring it down here. You have been in London, of
    course.'

    'Yes,' said Margaret, 'I have lived there for several years.'

    'Oh! London and the Alhambra are the two places I long to see!'

    'London and the Alhambra!'

    'Yes! ever since I read the Tales of the Alhambra. Don't you know
    them?'

    'I don't think I do. But surely, it is a very easy journey to
    London.'

    'Yes; but somehow,' said Fanny, lowering her voice, 'mamma has
    never been to London herself, and can't understand my longing.
    She is very proud of Milton; dirty, smoky place, as I feel it to
    be. I believe she admires it the more for those very qualities.'

    'If it has been Mrs. Thornton's home for some years, I can well
    understand her loving it,' said Margaret, in her clear bell-like
    voice.

    'What are you saying about me, Miss Hale? May I inquire?'

    Margaret had not the words ready for an answer to this question,
    which took her a little by surprise, so Miss Thornton replied:

    'Oh, mamma! we are only trying to account for your being so fond
    of Milton.'

    'Thank you,' said Mrs. Thornton. 'I do not feel that my very
    natural liking for the place where I was born and brought
    up,--and which has since been my residence for some years,
    requires any accounting for.'

    Margaret was vexed. As Fanny had put it, it did seem as if they
    had been impertinently discussing Mrs. Thornton's feelings; but
    she also rose up against that lady's manner of showing that she
    was offended.

    Mrs. Thornton went on after a moment's pause:

    'Do you know anything of Milton, Miss Hale? Have you seen any of
    our factories? our magnificent warehouses?'

    'No!' said Margaret. 'I have not seen anything of that
    description as yet. Then she felt that, by concealing her utter
    indifference to all such places, she was hardly speaking with
    truth; so she went on:

    'I dare say, papa would have taken me before now if I had cared.
    But I really do not find much pleasure in going over
    manufactories.'

    'They are very curious places,' said Mrs. Hale, 'but there is so
    much noise and dirt always. I remember once going in a lilac silk
    to see candles made, and my gown was utterly ruined.'

    'Very probably,' said Mrs. Thornton, in a short displeased
    manner. 'I merely thought, that as strangers newly come to reside
    in a town which has risen to eminence in the country, from the
    character and progress of its peculiar business, you might have
    cared to visit some of the places where it is carried on; places
    unique in the kingdom, I am informed. If Miss Hale changes her
    mind and condescends to be curious as to the manufactures of
    Milton, I can only say I shall be glad to procure her admission
    to print-works, or reed-making, or the more simple operations of
    spinning carried on in my son's mill. Every improvement of
    machinery is, I believe, to be seen there, in its highest
    perfection.'

    'I am so glad you don't like mills and manufactories, and all
    those kind of things,' said Fanny, in a half-whisper, as she rose
    to accompany her mother, who was taking leave of Mrs. Hale with
    rustling dignity.

    'I think I should like to know all about them, if I were you,'
    replied Margaret quietly.

    'Fanny!' said her mother, as they drove away, 'we will he civil
    to these Hales: but don't form one of your hasty friendships with
    the daughter. She will do you no good, I see. The mother looks
    very ill, and seems a nice, quiet kind of person.'

    'I don't want to form any friendship with Miss Hale, mamma,' said
    Fanny, pouting. 'I thought I was doing my duty by talking to her,
    and trying to amuse her.'

    'Well! at any rate John must he satisfied now.'
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