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    Chapter 33

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    Chapter 34
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    CHAPTER XXXIII - PEACE

    'Sleep on, my love, in thy cold bed,

    Never to be disquieted!

    My last Good Night--thou wilt not wake

    Till I thy fate shall overtake.'

    DR. KING.

    Home seemed unnaturally quiet after all this terror and noisy
    commotion. Her father had seen all due preparation made for her
    refreshment on her return; and then sate down again in his
    accustomed chair, to fall into one of his sad waking dreams.
    Dixon had got Mary Higgins to scold and direct in the kitchen;
    and her scolding was not the less energetic because it was
    delivered in an angry whisper; for, speaking above her breath she
    would have thought irreverent, as long as there was any one dead
    lying in the house. Margaret had resolved not to mention the
    crowning and closing affright to her father. There was no use in
    speaking about it; it had ended well; the only thing to be feared
    was lest Leonards should in some way borrow money enough to
    effect his purpose of following Frederick to London, and hunting
    him out there. But there were immense chances against the success
    of any such plan; and Margaret determined not to torment herself
    by thinking of what she could do nothing to prevent. Frederick
    would be as much on his guard as she could put him; and in a day
    or two at most he would be safely out of England.

    'I suppose we shall hear from Mr. Bell to-morrow,' said Margaret.

    'Yes,' replied her father. 'I suppose so.'

    'If he can come, he will be here to-morrow evening, I should
    think.'

    'If he cannot come, I shall ask Mr. Thornton to go with me to the
    funeral. I cannot go alone. I should break down utterly.'

    'Don't ask Mr. Thornton, papa. Let me go with you,' said
    Margaret, impetuously.

    'You! My dear, women do not generally go.'

    'No: because they can't control themselves. Women of our class
    don't go, because they have no power over their emotions, and yet
    are ashamed of showing them. Poor women go, and don't care if
    they are seen overwhelmed with grief. But I promise you, papa,
    that if you will let me go, I will be no trouble. Don't have a
    stranger, and leave me out. Dear papa! if Mr. Bell cannot come, I
    shall go. I won't urge my wish against your will, if he does.'

    Mr. Bell could not come. He had the gout. It was a most
    affectionate letter, and expressed great and true regret for his
    inability to attend. He hoped to come and pay them a visit soon,
    if they would have him; his Milton property required some looking
    after, and his agent had written to him to say that his presence
    was absolutely necessary; or else he had avoided coming near
    Milton as long as he could, and now the only thing that would
    reconcile him to this necessary visit was the idea that he should
    see, and might possibly be able to comfort his old friend.

    Margaret had all the difficulty in the world to persuade her
    father not to invite Mr. Thornton. She had an indescribable
    repugnance to this step being taken. The night before the
    funeral, came a stately note from Mrs. Thornton to Miss Hale,
    saying that, at her son's desire, their carriage should attend
    the funeral, if it would not be disagreeable to the family.
    Margaret tossed the note to her father.

    'Oh, don't let us have these forms,' said she. 'Let us go
    alone--you and me, papa. They don't care for us, or else he would
    have offered to go himself, and not have proposed this sending an
    empty carriage.'

    'I thought you were so extremely averse to his going, Margaret,'
    said Mr. Hale in some surprise.

    'And so I am. I don't want him to come at all; and I should
    especially dislike the idea of our asking him. But this seems
    such a mockery of mourning that I did not expect it from him.'
    She startled her father by bursting into tears. She had been so
    subdued in her grief, so thoughtful for others, so gentle and
    patient in all things, that he could not understand her impatient
    ways to-night; she seemed agitated and restless; and at all the
    tenderness which her father in his turn now lavished upon her,
    she only cried the more.

    She passed so bad a night that she was ill prepared for the
    additional anxiety caused by a letter received from Frederick.
    Mr. Lennox was out of town; his clerk said that he would return
    by the following Tuesday at the latest; that he might possibly be
    at home on Monday. Consequently, after some consideration,
    Frederick had determined upon remaining in London a day or two
    longer. He had thought of coming down to Milton again; the
    temptation had been very strong; but the idea of Mr. Bell
    domesticated in his father's house, and the alarm he had received
    at the last moment at the railway station, had made him resolve
    to stay in London. Margaret might be assured he would take every
    precaution against being tracked by Leonards. Margaret was
    thankful that she received this letter while her father was
    absent in her mother's room. If he had been present, he would
    have expected her to read it aloud to him, and it would have
    raised in him a state of nervous alarm which she would have found
    it impossible to soothe away. There was not merely the fact,
    which disturbed her excessively, of Frederick's detention in
    London, but there were allusions to the recognition at the last
    moment at Milton, and the possibility of a pursuit, which made
    her blood run cold; and how then would it have affected her
    father? Many a time did Margaret repent of having suggested and
    urged on the plan of consulting Mr. Lennox. At the moment, it had
    seemed as if it would occasion so little delay--add so little to
    the apparently small chances of detection; and yet everything
    that had since occurred had tended to make it so undesirable.
    Margaret battled hard against this regret of hers for what could
    not now be helped; this self-reproach for having said what had at
    thetime appeared to be wise, but which after events were proving
    to have been so foolish. But her father was in too depressed a
    state of mind and body to struggle healthily; he would succumb to
    all these causes for morbid regret over what could not be
    recalled. Margaret summoned up all her forces to her aid. Her
    father seemed to have forgotten that they had any reason to
    expect a letter from Frederick that morning. He was absorbed in
    one idea--that the last visible token of the presence of his wife
    was to be carried away from him, and hidden from his sight. He
    trembled pitifully as the undertaker's man was arranging his
    crape draperies around him. He looked wistfully at Margaret; and,
    when released, he tottered towards her, murmuring, 'Pray for me,
    Margaret. I have no strength left in me. I cannot pray. I give
    her up because I must. I try to bear it: indeed I do. I know it
    is God's will. But I cannot see why she died. Pray for me,
    Margaret, that I may have faith to pray. It is a great strait, my
    child.'

    Margaret sat by him in the coach, almost supporting him in her
    arms; and repeating all the noble verses of holy comfort, or
    texts expressive of faithful resignation, that she could
    remember. Her voice never faltered; and she herself gained
    strength by doing this. Her father's lips moved after her,
    repeating the well-known texts as her words suggested them; it
    was terrible to see the patient struggling effort to obtain the
    resignation which he had not strength to take into his heart as a
    part of himself.

    Margaret's fortitude nearly gave way as Dixon, with a slight
    motion of her hand, directed her notice to Nicholas Higgins and
    his daughter, standing a little aloof, but deeply attentive to
    the ceremonial. Nicholas wore his usual fustian clothes, but had
    a bit of black stuff sewn round his hat--a mark of mourning which
    he had never shown to his daughter Bessy's memory. But Mr. Hale
    saw nothing. He went on repeating to himself, mechanically as it
    were, all the funeral service as it was read by the officiating
    clergyman; he sighed twice or thrice when all was ended; and
    then, putting his hand on Margaret's arm, he mutely entreated to
    be led away, as if he were blind, and she his faithful guide.

    Dixon sobbed aloud; she covered her face with her handkerchief,
    and was so absorbed in her own grief, that she did not perceive
    that the crowd, attracted on such occasions, was dispersing, till
    she was spoken to by some one close at hand. It was Mr. Thornton.
    He had been present all the time, standing, with bent head,
    behind a group of people, so that, in fact, no one had recognised
    him.

    'I beg your pardon,--but, can you tell me how Mr. Hale is? And
    Miss Hale, too? I should like to know how they both are.'

    'Of course, sir. They are much as is to be expected. Master is
    terribly broke down. Miss Hale bears up better than likely.'

    Mr. Thornton would rather have heard that she was suffering the
    natural sorrow. In the first place, there was selfishness enough
    in him to have taken pleasure in the idea that his great love
    might come in to comfort and console her; much the same kind of
    strange passionate pleasure which comes stinging through a
    mother's heart, when her drooping infant nestles close to her,
    and is dependent upon her for everything. But this delicious
    vision of what might have been--in which, in spite of all
    Margaret's repulse, he would have indulged only a few days
    ago--was miserably disturbed by the recollection of what he had
    seen near the Outwood station. 'Miserably disturbed!' that is not
    strong enough. He was haunted by the remembrance of the handsome
    young man, with whom she stood in an attitude of such familiar
    confidence; and the remembrance shot through him like an agony,
    till it made him clench his hands tight in order to subdue the
    pain. At that late hour, so far from home! It took a great moral
    effort to galvanise his trust--erewhile so perfect--in Margaret's
    pure and exquisite maidenliness, into life; as soon as the effort
    ceased, his trust dropped down dead and powerless: and all sorts
    of wild fancies chased each other like dreams through his mind.
    Here was a little piece of miserable, gnawing confirmation. 'She
    bore up better than likely' under this grief. She had then some
    hope to look to, so bright that even in her affectionate nature
    it could come in to lighten the dark hours of a daughter newly
    made motherless. Yes! he knew how she would love. He had not
    loved her without gaining that instinctive knowledge of what
    capabilities were in her. Her soul would walk in glorious
    sunlight if any man was worthy, by his power of loving, to win
    back her love. Even in her mourning she would rest with a
    peaceful faith upon his sympathy. His sympathy! Whose? That other
    man's. And that it was another was enough to make Mr. Thornton's
    pale grave face grow doubly wan and stern at Dixon's answer.

    'I suppose I may call,' said he coldly. 'On Mr. Hale, I mean. He
    will perhaps admit me after to-morrow or so.'

    He spoke as if the answer were a matter of indifference to him.
    But it was not so. For all his pain, he longed to see the author
    of it. Although he hated Margaret at times, when he thought of
    that gentle familiar attitude and all the attendant
    circumstances, he had a restless desire to renew her picture in
    his mind--a longing for the very atmosphere she breathed. He was
    in the Charybdis of passion, and must perforce circle and circle
    ever nearer round the fatal centre.

    'I dare say, sir, master will see you. He was very sorry to have
    to deny you the other day; but circumstances was not agreeable
    just then.'

    For some reason or other, Dixon never named this interview that
    she had had with Mr. Thornton to Margaret. It might have been
    mere chance, but so it was that Margaret never heard that he had
    attended her poor mother's funeral.
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