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    Chapter 51

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    Chapter 52
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    CHAPTER LI - MEETING AGAIN

    'Bear up, brave heart! we will be calm and strong;

    Sure, we can master eyes, or cheek, or tongue,

    Nor let the smallest tell-tale sign appear

    She ever was, and is, and will be dear.'

    RHYMING PLAY.

    It was a hot summer's evening. Edith came into Margaret's
    bedroom, the first time in her habit, the second ready dressed
    for dinner. No one was there at first; the next time Edith found
    Dixon laying out Margaret's dress on the bed; but no Margaret.
    Edith remained to fidget about.

    'Oh, Dixon! not those horrid blue flowers to that dead
    gold-coloured gown. What taste! Wait a minute, and I will bring
    you some pomegranate blossoms.'

    'It's not a dead gold-colour, ma'am. It's a straw-colour. And
    blue always goes with straw-colour.' But Edith had brought the
    brilliant scarlet flowers before Dixon had got half through her
    remonstrance.

    'Where is Miss Hale?' asked Edith, as soon as she had tried the
    effect of the garniture. 'I can't think,' she went on, pettishly,
    'how my aunt allowed her to get into such rambling habits in
    Milton! I'm sure I'm always expecting to hear of her having met
    with something horrible among all those wretched places she pokes
    herself into. I should never dare to go down some of those
    streets without a servant. They're not fit for ladies.'

    Dixon was still huffed about her despised taste; so she replied,
    rather shortly:

    'It's no wonder to my mind, when I hear ladies talk such a deal
    about being ladies--and when they're such fearful, delicate,
    dainty ladies too--I say it's no wonder to me that there are no
    longer any saints on earth----'

    'Oh, Margaret! here you are! I have been so wanting you. But how
    your cheeks are flushed with the heat, poor child! But only think
    what that tiresome Henry has done; really, he exceeds
    brother-in-law's limits. Just when my party was made up so
    beautifully--fitted in so precisely for Mr. Colthurst--there has
    Henry come, with an apology it is true, and making use of your
    name for an excuse, and asked me if he may bring that Mr.
    Thornton of Milton--your tenant, you know--who is in London about
    some law business. It will spoil my number, quite.'

    'I don't mind dinner. I don't want any,' said Margaret, in a low
    voice. 'Dixon can get me a cup of tea here, and I will be in the
    drawing-room by the time you come up. I shall really be glad to
    lie down.'

    'No, no! that will never do. You do look wretchedly white, to be
    sure; but that is just the heat, and we can't do without you
    possibly. (Those flowers a little lower, Dixon. They look
    glorious flames, Margaret, in your black hair.) You know we
    planned you to talk about Milton to Mr. Colthurst. Oh! to be
    sure! and this man comes from Milton. I believe it will be
    capital, after all. Mr. Colthurst can pump him well on all the
    subjects in which he is interested, and it will be great fun to
    trace out your experiences, and this Mr. Thornton's wisdom, in
    Mr. Colthurst's next speech in the House. Really, I think it is a
    happy hit of Henry's. I asked him if he was a man one would be
    ashamed of; and he replied, "Not if you've any sense in you, my
    little sister." So I suppose he Is able to sound his h's, which
    is not a common Darkshire accomplishment--eh, Margaret?'

    'Mr. Lennox did not say why Mr. Thornton was come up to town? Was
    it law business connected with the property?' asked Margaret, in
    a constrained voice.

    'Oh! he's failed, or something of the kind, that Henry told you
    of that day you had such a headache,--what was it? (There, that's
    capital, Dixon. Miss Hale does us credit, does she not?) I wish I
    was as tall as a queen, and as brown as a gipsy, Margaret.'

    'But about Mr. Thornton?'

    'Oh I really have such a terrible head for law business. Henry
    will like nothing better than to tell you all about it. I know
    the impression he made upon me was, that Mr. Thornton is very
    badly off, and a very respectable man, and that I'm to be very
    civil to him; and as I did not know how, I came to you to ask you
    to help me. And now come down with me, and rest on the sofa for a
    quarter of an hour.'

    The privileged brother-in-law came early and Margaret reddening
    as she spoke, began to ask him the questions she wanted to hear
    answered about Mr. Thornton.

    'He came up about this sub-letting the property--Marlborough
    Mills, and the house and premises adjoining, I mean. He is unable
    to keep it on; and there are deeds and leases to be looked over,
    and agreements to be drawn up. I hope Edith will receive him
    properly; but she was rather put out, as I could see, by the
    liberty I had taken in begging for an invitation for him. But I
    thought you would like to have some attention shown him: and one
    would be particularly scrupulous in paying every respect to a man
    who is going down in the world.' He had dropped his voice to
    speak to Margaret, by whom he was sitting; but as he ended he
    sprang up, and introduced Mr. Thornton, who had that moment
    entered, to Edith and Captain Lennox.

    Margaret looked with an anxious eye at Mr. Thornton while he was
    thus occupied. It was considerably more than a year since she had
    seen him; and events had occurred to change him much in that
    time. His fine figure yet bore him above the common height of
    men; and gave him a distinguished appearance, from the ease of
    motion which arose out of it, and was natural to him; but his
    face looked older and care-worn; yet a noble composure sate upon
    it, which impressed those who had just been hearing of his
    changed position, with a sense of inherent dignity and manly
    strength. He was aware, from the first glance he had given round
    the room, that Margaret was there; he had seen her intent look of
    occupation as she listened to Mr. Henry Lennox; and he came up to
    her with the perfectly regulated manner of an old friend. With
    his first calm words a vivid colour flashed into her cheeks,
    which never left them again during the evening. She did not seem
    to have much to say to him. She disappointed him by the quiet way
    in which she asked what seemed to him to be the merely necessary
    questions respecting her old acquaintances, in Milton; but others
    came in--more intimate in the house than he--and he fell into the
    background, where he and Mr. Lennox talked together from time to
    time.

    'You think Miss Hale looking well,' said Mr. Lennox, 'don't you?
    Milton didn't agree with her, I imagine; for when she first came
    to London, I thought I had never seen any one so much changed.
    To-night she is looking radiant. But she is much stronger. Last
    autumn she was fatigued with a walk of a couple of miles. On
    Friday evening we walked up to Hampstead and back. Yet on
    Saturday she looked as well as she does now.

    'We!' Who? They two alone?

    Mr. Colthurst was a very clever man, and a rising member of
    parliament. He had a quick eye at discerning character, and was
    struck by a remark which Mr. Thornton made at dinner-time. He
    enquired from Edith who that gentleman was; and, rather to her
    surprise, she found, from the tone of his 'Indeed!' that Mr.
    Thornton of Milton was not such an unknown name to him as she had
    imagined it would be. Her dinner was going off well. Henry was in
    good humour, and brought out his dry caustic wit admirably. Mr.
    Thornton and Mr. Colthurst found one or two mutual subjects of
    interest, which they could only touch upon then, reserving them
    for more private after-dinner talk. Margaret looked beautiful in
    the pomegranate flowers; and if she did lean back in her chair
    and speak but little, Edith was not annoyed, for the conversation
    flowed on smoothly without her. Margaret was watching Mr.
    Thornton's face. He never looked at her; so she might study him
    unobserved, and note the changes which even this short time had
    wrought in him. Only at some unexpected mot of Mr. Lennox's, his
    face flashed out into the old look of intense enjoyment; the
    merry brightness returned to his eyes, the lips just parted to
    suggest the brilliant smile of former days; and for an instant,
    his glance instinctively sought hers, as if he wanted her
    sympathy. But when their eyes met, his whole countenance changed;
    he was grave and anxious once more; and he resolutely avoided
    even looking near her again during dinner.

    There were only two ladies besides their own party, and as these
    were occupied in conversation by her aunt and Edith, when they
    went up into the drawing-room, Margaret languidly employed
    herself about some work. Presently the gentlemen came up, Mr.
    Colthurst and Mr. Thornton in close conversation. Mr. Lennox drew
    near to Margaret, and said in a low voice:

    'I really think Edith owes me thanks for my contribution to her
    party. You've no idea what an agreeable, sensible fellow this
    tenant of yours is. He has been the very man to give Colthurst
    all the facts he wanted coaching in. I can't conceive how he
    contrived to mismanage his affairs.'

    'With his powers and opportunities you would have succeeded,'
    said Margaret. He did not quite relish the tone in which she
    spoke, although the words but expressed a thought which had
    passed through his own mind. As he was silent, they caught a
    swell in the sound of conversation going on near the fire-place
    between Mr. Colthurst and Mr. Thornton.

    'I assure you, I heard it spoken of with great
    interest--curiosity as to its result, perhaps I should rather
    say. I heard your name frequently mentioned during my short stay
    in the neighbourhood.' Then they lost some words; and when next
    they could hear Mr. Thornton was speaking.

    'I have not the elements for popularity--if they spoke of me in
    that way, they were mistaken. I fall slowly into new projects;
    and I find it difficult to let myself be known, even by those
    whom I desire to know, and with whom I would fain have no
    reserve. Yet, even with all these drawbacks, I felt that I was on
    the right path, and that, starting from a kind of friendship with
    one, I was becoming acquainted with many. The advantages were
    mutual: we were both unconsciously and consciously teaching each
    other.'

    'You say "were." I trust you are intending to pursue the same
    course?'

    'I must stop Colthurst,' said Henry Lennox, hastily. And by an
    abrupt, yet apropos question, he turned the current of the
    conversation, so as not to give Mr. Thornton the mortification of
    acknowledging his want of success and consequent change of
    position. But as soon as the newly-started subject had come to a
    close, Mr. Thornton resumed the conversation just where it had
    been interrupted, and gave Mr. Colthurst the reply to his
    inquiry.

    'I have been unsuccessful in business, and have had to give up my
    position as a master. I am on the look out for a situation in
    Milton, where I may meet with employment under some one who will
    be willing to let me go along my own way in such matters as
    these. I can depend upon myself for having no go-ahead theories
    that I would rashly bring into practice. My only wish is to have
    the opportunity of cultivating some intercourse with the hands
    beyond the mere "cash nexus." But it might be the point
    Archimedes sought from which to move the earth, to judge from the
    importance attached to it by some of our manufacturers, who shake
    their heads and look grave as soon as I name the one or two
    experiments that I should like to try.'

    'You call them "experiments" I notice,' said Mr. Colthurst, with
    a delicate increase of respect in his manner.

    'Because I believe them to be such. I am not sure of the
    consequences that may result from them. But I am sure they ought
    to be tried. I have arrived at the conviction that no mere
    institutions, however wise, and however much thought may have
    been required to organise and arrange them, can attach class to
    class as they should be attached, unless the working out of such
    institutions bring the individuals of the different classes into
    actual personal contact. Such intercourse is the very breath of
    life. A working man can hardly be made to feel and know how much
    his employer may have laboured in his study at plans for the
    benefit of his workpeople. A complete plan emerges like a piece
    of machinery, apparently fitted for every emergency. But the
    hands accept it as they do machinery, without understanding the
    intense mental labour and forethought required to bring it to
    such perfection. But I would take an idea, the working out of
    which would necessitate personal intercourse; it might not go
    well at first, but at every hitch interest would be felt by an
    increasing number of men, and at last its success in working come
    to be desired by all, as all had borne a part in the formation of
    the plan; and even then I am sure that it would lose its
    vitality, cease to be living, as soon as it was no longer carried
    on by that sort of common interest which invariably makes people
    find means and ways of seeing each other, and becoming acquainted
    with each others' characters and persons, and even tricks of
    temper and modes of speech. We should understand each other
    better, and I'll venture to say we should like each other more.'

    'And you think they may prevent the recurrence of strikes?'

    'Not at all. My utmost expectation only goes so far as this--that
    they may render strikes not the bitter, venomous sources of
    hatred they have hitherto been. A more hopeful man might imagine
    that a closer and more genial intercourse between classes might
    do away with strikes. But I am not a hopeful man.'

    Suddenly, as if a new idea had struck him, he crossed over to
    where Margaret was sitting, and began, without preface, as if he
    knew she had been listening to all that had passed:

    'Miss Hale, I had a round-robin from some of my men--I suspect in
    Higgins' handwriting--stating their wish to work for me, if ever
    I was in a position to employ men again on my own behalf. That
    was good, wasn't it?'

    'Yes. Just right. I am glad of it,' said Margaret, looking up
    straight into his face with her speaking eyes, and then dropping
    them under his eloquent glance. He gazed back at her for a
    minute, as if he did not know exactly what he was about. Then
    sighed; and saying, 'I knew you would like it,' he turned away,
    and never spoke to her again until he bid her a formal 'good
    night.'

    As Mr. Lennox took his departure, Margaret said, with a blush
    that she could not repress, and with some hesitation,

    'Can I speak to you to-morrow? I want your help
    about--something.'

    'Certainly. I will come at whatever time you name. You cannot
    give me a greater pleasure than by making me of any use. At
    eleven? Very well.'

    His eye brightened with exultation. How she was learning to
    depend upon him! It seemed as if any day now might give him the
    certainty, without having which he had determined never to offer
    to her again.
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