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    Chapter 21

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    Chapter 22
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    CHAPTER XXI - THE DARK NIGHT

    'On earth is known to none

    The smile that is not sister to a tear.'

    ELLIOTT.

    Margaret and her father walked home. The night was fine, the
    streets clean, and with her pretty white silk, like Leezie
    Lindsay's gown o' green satin, in the ballad, 'kilted up to her
    knee,' she was off with her father--ready to dance along with the
    excitement of the cool, fresh night air.

    'I rather think Thornton is not quite easy in his mind about this
    strike. He seemed very anxious to-night.'

    'I should wonder if he were not. But he spoke with his usual
    coolness to the others, when they suggested different things,
    just before we came away.'

    'So he did after dinner as well. It would take a good deal to
    stir him from his cool manner of speaking; but his face strikes
    me as anxious.'

    'I should be, if I were he. He must know of the growing anger and
    hardly smothered hatred of his workpeople, who all look upon him
    as what the Bible calls a "hard man,"--not so much unjust as
    unfeeling; clear in judgment, standing upon his "rights" as no
    human being ought to stand, considering what we and all our petty
    rights are in the sight of the Almighty. I am glad you think he
    looks anxious. When I remember Boucher's half mad words and ways,
    I cannot bear to think how coolly Mr. Thornton spoke.'

    'In the first place, I am not so convinced as you are about that
    man Boucher's utter distress; for the moment, he was badly off, I
    don't doubt. But there is always a mysterious supply of money
    from these Unions; and, from what you said, it was evident the
    man was of a passionate, demonstrative nature, and gave strong
    expression to all he felt.'

    'Oh, papa!'

    'Well! I only want you to do justice to Mr. Thornton, who is, I
    suspect, of an exactly opposite nature,--a man who is far too
    proud to show his feelings. Just the character I should have
    thought beforehand, you would have admired, Margaret.'

    'So I do,--so I should; but I don't feel quite so sure as you do
    of the existence of those feelings. He is a man of great strength
    of character,--of unusual intellect, considering the few
    advantages he has had.'

    'Not so few. He has led a practical life from a very early age;
    has been called upon to exercise judgment and self-control. All
    that developes one part of the intellect. To be sure, he needs
    some of the knowledge of the past, which gives the truest basis
    for conjecture as to the future; but he knows this need,--he
    perceives it, and that is something. You are quite prejudiced
    against Mr. Thornton, Margaret.'

    'He is the first specimen of a manufacturer--of a person engaged
    in trade--that I had ever the opportunity of studying, papa. He
    is my first olive: let me make a face while I swallow it. I know
    he is good of his kind, and by and by I shall like the kind. I
    rather think I am already beginning to do so. I was very much
    interested by what the gentlemen were talking about, although I
    did not understand half of it. I was quite sorry when Miss
    Thornton came to take me to the other end of the room, saying she
    was sure I should be uncomfortable at being the only lady among
    so many gentlemen. I had never thought about it, I was so busy
    listening; and the ladies were so dull, papa--oh, so dull! Yet I
    think it was clever too. It reminded me of our old game of having
    each so many nouns to introduce into a sentence.'

    'What do you mean, child?' asked Mr. Hale.

    'Why, they took nouns that were signs of things which gave
    evidence of wealth,--housekeepers, under-gardeners, extent of
    glass, valuable lace, diamonds, and all such things; and each one
    formed her speech so as to bring them all in, in the prettiest
    accidental manner possible.'

    'You will be as proud of your one servant when you get her, if
    all is true about her that Mrs. Thornton says.'

    'To be sure, I shall. I felt like a great hypocrite to-night,
    sitting there in my white silk gown, with my idle hands before
    me, when I remembered all the good, thorough, house-work they had
    done to-day. They took me for a fine lady, I'm sure.'

    'Even I was mistaken enough to think you looked like a lady my
    dear,' said Mr. Hale, quietly smiling.

    But smiles were changed to white and trembling looks, when they
    saw Dixon's face, as she opened the door.

    'Oh, master!--Oh, Miss Margaret! Thank God you are come! Dr.
    Donaldson is here. The servant next door went for him, for the
    charwoman is gone home. She's better now; but, oh, sir! I thought
    she'd have died an hour ago.'

    Mr. Hale caught Margaret's arm to steady himself from falling. He
    looked at her face, and saw an expression upon it of surprise and
    extremest sorrow, but not the agony of terror that contracted his
    own unprepared heart. She knew more than he did, and yet she
    listened with that hopeless expression of awed apprehension.

    'Oh! I should not have left her--wicked daughter that I am!'
    moaned forth Margaret, as she supported her trembling father's
    hasty steps up-stairs. Dr. Donaldson met them on the landing.

    'She is better now,' he whispered. 'The opiate has taken effect.
    The spasms were very bad: no wonder they frightened your maid;
    but she'll rally this time.'

    'This time! Let me go to her!' Half an hour ago, Mr. Hale was a
    middle-aged man; now his sight was dim, his senses wavering, his
    walk tottering, as if he were seventy years of age.

    Dr. Donaldson took his arm, and led him into the bedroom.
    Margaret followed close. There lay her mother, with an
    unmistakable look on her face. She might be better now; she was
    sleeping, but Death had signed her for his own, and it was clear
    that ere long he would return to take possession. Mr. Hale looked
    at her for some time without a word. Then he began to shake all
    over, and, turning away from Dr. Donaldson's anxious care, he
    groped to find the door; he could not see it, although several
    candles, brought in the sudden affright, were burning and flaring
    there. He staggered into the drawing-room, and felt about for a
    chair. Dr. Donaldson wheeled one to him, and placed him in it. He
    felt his pulse.

    'Speak to him, Miss Hale. We must rouse him.'

    'Papa!' said Margaret, with a crying voice that was wild with
    pain. 'Papa! Speak to me!' The speculation came again into his
    eyes, and he made a great effort.

    'Margaret, did you know of this? Oh, it was cruel of you!'

    'No, sir, it was not cruel!' replied Dr. Donaldson, with quick
    decision. 'Miss Hale acted under my directions. There may have
    been a mistake, but it was not cruel. Your wife will be a
    different creature to-morrow, I trust. She has had spasms, as I
    anticipated, though I did not tell Miss Hale of my apprehensions.
    She has taken the opiate I brought with me; she will have a good
    long sleep; and to-morrow, that look which has alarmed you so
    much will have passed away.'

    'But not the disease?'

    Dr. Donaldson glanced at Margaret. Her bent head, her face raised
    with no appeal for a temporary reprieve, showed that quick
    observer of human nature that she thought it better that the
    whole truth should be told.

    'Not the disease. We cannot touch the disease, with all our poor
    vaunted skill. We can only delay its progress--alleviate the pain
    it causes. Be a man, sir--a Christian. Have faith in the
    immortality of the soul, which no pain, no mortal disease, can
    assail or touch!'

    But all the reply he got, was in the choked words, 'You have
    never been married, Dr. Donaldson; you do not know what it is,'
    and in the deep, manly sobs, which went through the stillness of
    the night like heavy pulses of agony. Margaret knelt by him,
    caressing him with tearful caresses. No one, not even Dr.
    Donaldson, knew how the time went by. Mr. Hale was the first to
    dare to speak of the necessities of the present moment.

    'What must we do?' asked he. 'Tell us both. Margaret is my
    staff--my right hand.'

    Dr. Donaldson gave his clear, sensible directions. No fear for
    to-night--nay, even peace for to-morrow, and for many days yet.
    But no enduring hope of recovery. He advised Mr. Hale to go to
    bed, and leave only one to watch the slumber, which he hoped
    would be undisturbed. He promised to come again early in the
    morning. And with a warm and kindly shake of the hand, he left
    them. They spoke but few words; they were too much exhausted by
    their terror to do more than decide upon the immediate course of
    action. Mr. Hale was resolved to sit up through the night, and
    all that Margaret could do was to prevail upon him to rest on the
    drawing-room sofa. Dixon stoutly and bluntly refused to go to
    bed; and, as for Margaret, it was simply impossible that she
    should leave her mother, let all the doctors in the world speak
    of 'husbanding resources,' and 'one watcher only being required.'
    So, Dixon sat, and stared, and winked, and drooped, and picked
    herself up again with a jerk, and finally gave up the battle, and
    fairly snored. Margaret had taken off her gown and tossed it
    aside with a sort of impatient disgust, and put on her
    dressing-gown. She felt as if she never could sleep again; as if
    her whole senses were acutely vital, and all endued with double
    keenness, for the purposes of watching. Every sight and
    sound--nay, even every thought, touched some nerve to the very
    quick. For more than two hours, she heard her father's restless
    movements in the next room. He came perpetually to the door of
    her mother's chamber, pausing there to listen, till she, not
    hearing his close unseen presence, went and opened it to tell him
    how all went on, in reply to the questions his baked lips could
    hardly form. At last he, too, fell asleep, and all the house was
    still. Margaret sate behind the curtain thinking. Far away in
    time, far away in space, seemed all the interests of past days.
    Not more than thirty-six hours ago, she cared for Bessy Higgins
    and her father, and her heart was wrung for Boucher; now, that
    was all like a dreaming memory of some former life;--everything
    that had passed out of doors seemed dissevered from her mother,
    and therefore unreal. Even Harley Street appeared more distinct;
    there she remembered, as if it were yesterday, how she had
    pleased herself with tracing out her mother's features in her
    Aunt Shaw's face,--and how letters had come, making her dwell on
    the thoughts of home with all the longing of love. Helstone,
    itself, was in the dim past. The dull gray days of the preceding
    winter and spring, so uneventless and monotonous, seemed more
    associated with what she cared for now above all price. She would
    fain have caught at the skirts of that departing time, and prayed
    it to return, and give her back what she had too little valued
    while it was yet in her possession. What a vain show Life seemed!
    How unsubstantial, and flickering, and flitting! It was as if
    from some aerial belfry, high up above the stir and jar of the
    earth, there was a bell continually tolling, 'All are
    shadows!--all are passing!--all is past!' And when the morning
    dawned, cool and gray, like many a happier morning before--when
    Margaret looked one by one at the sleepers, it seemed as if the
    terrible night were unreal as a dream; it, too, was a shadow. It,
    too, was past.

    Mrs. Hale herself was not aware when she awoke, how ill she had
    been the night before. She was rather surprised at Dr.
    Donaldson's early visit, and perplexed by the anxious faces of
    husband and child. She consented to remain in bed that day,
    saying she certainly was tired; but, the next, she insisted on
    getting up; and Dr. Donaldson gave his consent to her returning
    into the drawing-room. She was restless and uncomfortable in
    every position, and before night she became very feverish. Mr.
    Hale was utterly listless, and incapable of deciding on anything.

    'What can we do to spare mamma such another night?' asked
    Margaret on the third day.

    'It is, to a certain degree, the reaction after the powerful
    opiates I have been obliged to use. It is more painful for you to
    see than for her to bear, I believe. But, I think, if we could
    get a water-bed it might be a good thing. Not but what she will
    be better to-morrow; pretty much like herself as she was before
    this attack. Still, I should like her to have a water-bed. Mrs.
    Thornton has one, I know. I'll try and call there this afternoon.
    Stay,' said he, his eye catching on Margaret's face, blanched
    with watching in a sick room, 'I'm not sure whether I can go;
    I've a long round to take. It would do you no harm to have a
    brisk walk to Marlborough Street, and ask Mrs. Thornton if she
    can spare it.'

    'Certainly,' said Margaret. 'I could go while mamma is asleep
    this afternoon. I'm sure Mrs. Thornton would lend it to us.'

    Dr. Donaldson's experience told them rightly. Mrs. Hale seemed to
    shake off the consequences of her attack, and looked brighter and
    better this afternoon than Margaret had ever hoped to see her
    again. Her daughter left her after dinner, sitting in her easy
    chair, with her hand lying in her husband's, who looked more worn
    and suffering than she by far. Still, he could smile now-rather
    slowly, rather faintly, it is true; but a day or two before,
    Margaret never thought to see him smile again.

    It was about two miles from their house in Crampton Crescent to
    Marlborough Street. It was too hot to walk very quickly. An
    August sun beat straight down into the street at three o'clock in
    the afternoon. Margaret went along, without noticing anything
    very different from usual in the first mile and a half of her
    journey; she was absorbed in her own thoughts, and had learnt by
    this time to thread her way through the irregular stream of human
    beings that flowed through Milton streets. But, by and by, she
    was struck with an unusual heaving among the mass of people in
    the crowded road on which she was entering. They did not appear
    to be moving on, so much as talking, and listening, and buzzing
    with excitement, without much stirring from the spot where they
    might happen to be. Still, as they made way for her, and, wrapt
    up in the purpose of her errand, and the necessities that
    suggested it, she was less quick of observation than she might
    have been, if her mind had been at ease, she had got into
    Marlborough Street before the full conviction forced itself upon
    her, that there was a restless, oppressive sense of irritation
    abroad among the people; a thunderous atmosphere, morally as well
    as physically, around her. From every narrow lane opening out on
    Marlborough Street came up a low distant roar, as of myriads of
    fierce indignant voices. The inhabitants of each poor squalid
    dwelling were gathered round the doors and windows, if indeed
    they were not actually standing in the middle of the narrow
    ways--all with looks intent towards one point. Marlborough Street
    itself was the focus of all those human eyes, that betrayed
    intensest interest of various kinds; some fierce with anger, some
    lowering with relentless threats, some dilated with fear, or
    imploring entreaty; and, as Margaret reached the small
    side-entrance by the folding doors, in the great dead wall of
    Marlborough mill-yard and waited the porter's answer to the bell,
    she looked round and heard the first long far-off roll of the
    tempest;--saw the first slow-surging wave of the dark crowd come,
    with its threatening crest, tumble over, and retreat, at the far
    end of the street, which a moment ago, seemed so full of
    repressed noise, but which now was ominously still; all these
    circumstances forced themselves on Margaret's notice, but did not
    sink down into her pre-occupied heart. She did not know what they
    meant--what was their deep significance; while she did know, did
    feel the keen sharp pressure of the knife that was soon to stab
    her through and through by leaving her motherless. She was trying
    to realise that, in order that, when it came, she might be ready
    to comfort her father.

    The porter opened the door cautiously, not nearly wide enough to
    admit her.

    'It's you, is it, ma'am?' said he, drawing a long breath, and
    widening the entrance, but still not opening it fully. Margaret
    went in. He hastily bolted it behind her.

    'Th' folk are all coming up here I reckon?' asked he.

    'I don't know. Something unusual seemed going on; but this street
    is quite empty, I think.'

    She went across the yard and up the steps to the house door.
    There was no near sound,--no steam-engine at work with beat and
    pant,--no click of machinery, or mingling and clashing of many
    sharp voices; but far away, the ominous gathering roar,
    deep-clamouring.
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