North and South (Chapter 5, page 2 of 9)


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Chapter 5

She looked out upon the dark-gray lines of the church tower,
square and straight in the centre of the view, cutting against
the deep blue transparent depths beyond, into which she gazed,
and felt that she might gaze for ever, seeing at every moment
some farther distance, and yet no sign of God! It seemed to her
at the moment, as if the earth was more utterly desolate than if
girt in by an iron dome, behind which there might be the
ineffaceable peace and glory of the Almighty: those never-ending
depths of space, in their still serenity, were more mocking to
her than any material bounds could be--shutting in the cries of
earth's sufferers, which now might ascend into that infinite
splendour of vastness and be lost--lost for ever, before they
reached His throne. In this mood her father came in unheard. The
moonlight was strong enough to let him see his daughter in her
unusual place and attitude. He came to her and touched her
shoulder before she was aware that he was there.

'Margaret, I heard you were up. I could not help coming in to ask
you to pray with me--to say the Lord's Prayer; that will do good
to both of us.' Mr. Hale and Margaret knelt by the window-seat--he looking up,
she bowed down in humble shame. God was there, close around them,
hearing her father's whispered words. Her father might be a
heretic; but had not she, in her despairing doubts not five
minutes before, shown herself a far more utter sceptic? She spoke
not a word, but stole to bed after her father had left her, like
a child ashamed of its fault. If the world was full of perplexing
problems she would trust, and only ask to see the one step
needful for the hour. Mr. Lennox--his visit, his proposal--the
remembrance of which had been so rudely pushed aside by the
subsequent events of the day--haunted her dreams that night. He
was climbing up some tree of fabulous height to reach the branch
whereon was slung her bonnet: he was falling, and she was
struggling to save him, but held back by some invisible powerful
hand. He was dead. And yet, with a shifting of the scene, she was
once more in the Harley Street drawing-room, talking to him as of
old, and still with a consciousness all the time that she had
seen him killed by that terrible fall.

Miserable, unresting night! Ill preparation for the coming day!
She awoke with a start, unrefreshed, and conscious of some
reality worse even than her feverish dreams. It all came back
upon her; not merely the sorrow, but the terrible discord in the
sorrow. Where, to what distance apart, had her father wandered,
led by doubts which were to her temptations of the Evil One? She
longed to ask, and yet would not have heard for all the world.

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