North and South (Chapter 5, page 1 of 12)


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Chapter 5

'I ask Thee for a thoughtful love,
Through constant watching wise,
To meet the glad with joyful smiles,
And to wipe the weeping eyes;
And a heart at leisure from itself
To soothe and sympathise.'

ANON.

Margaret made a good listener to all her mother's little plans
for adding some small comforts to the lot of the poorer
parishioners. She could not help listening, though each new
project was a stab to her heart. By the time the frost had set
in, they should be far away from Helstone. Old Simon's rheumatism
might be bad and his eyesight worse; there would be no one to go
and read to him, and comfort him with little porringers of broth
and good red flannel: or if there was, it would be a stranger,
and the old man would watch in vain for her. Mary Domville's
little crippled boy would crawl in vain to the door and look for
her coming through the forest. These poor friends would never
understand why she had forsaken them; and there were many others
besides. 'Papa has always spent the income he derived from his
living in the parish. I am, perhaps, encroaching upon the next
dues, but the winter is likely to be severe, and our poor old
people must be helped.'

'Oh, mamma, let us do all we can,' said Margaret eagerly, not
seeing the prudential side of the question, only grasping at the
idea that they were rendering such help for the last time; 'we
may not be here long.'

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