North and South (Chapter 4, page 1 of 7)


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Chapter 4

'Cast me upon some naked shore,
Where I may tracke
Only the print of some sad wracke,
If thou be there, though the seas roare,
I shall no gentler calm implore.'

HABINGTON.

He was gone. The house was shut up for the evening. No more deep
blue skies or crimson and amber tints. Margaret went up to dress
for the early tea, finding Dixon in a pretty temper from the
interruption which a visitor had naturally occasioned on a busy
day. She showed it by brushing away viciously at Margaret's hair,
under pretence of being in a great hurry to go to Mrs. Hale. Yet,
after all, Margaret had to wait a long time in the drawing-room
before her mother came down. She sat by herself at the fire, with
unlighted candles on the table behind her, thinking over the day,
the happy walk, happy sketching, cheerful pleasant dinner, and
the uncomfortable, miserable walk in the garden.

How different men were to women! Here was she disturbed and
unhappy, because her instinct had made anything but a refusal
impossible; while he, not many minutes after he had met with a
rejection of what ought to have been the deepest, holiest
proposal of his life, could speak as if briefs, success, and all
its superficial consequences of a good house, clever and
agreeable society, were the sole avowed objects of his desires.
Oh dear! how she could have loved him if he had but been
different, with a difference which she felt, on reflection, to be
one that went low--deep down. Then she took it into her head
that, after all, his lightness might be but assumed, to cover a
bitterness of disappointment which would have been stamped on her
own heart if she had loved and been rejected.

Her mother came into the room before this whirl of thoughts was
adjusted into anything like order. Margaret had to shake off the
recollections of what had been done and said through the day, and
turn a sympathising listener to the account of how Dixon had
complained that the ironing-blanket had been burnt again; and how
Susan Lightfoot had been seen with artificial flowers in her
bonnet, thereby giving evidence of a vain and giddy character.
Mr. Hale sipped his tea in abstracted silence; Margaret had the
responses all to herself. She wondered how her father and mother
could be so forgetful, so regardless of their companion through
the day, as never to mention his name. She forgot that he had not
made them an offer.

After tea Mr. Hale got up, and stood with his elbow on the
chimney-piece, leaning his head on his hand, musing over
something, and from time to time sighing deeply. Mrs. Hale went
out to consult with Dixon about some winter clothing for the
poor. Margaret was preparing her mother's worsted work, and
rather shrinking from the thought of the long evening, and
wishing bed-time were come that she might go over the events of
the day again.

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