North and South (Chapter 6, page 1 of 5)


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Chapter 6

'Unwatch'd the garden bough shall sway,
The tender blossom flutter down,
Unloved that beech will gather brown,
The maple burn itself away; Unloved, the sun-flower, shining fair,
Ray round with flames her disk of seed,
And many a rose-carnation feed
With summer spice the humming air;

Till from the garden and the wild
A fresh association blow,
And year by year the landscape grow
Familiar to the stranger's child; As year by year the labourer tills
His wonted glebe, or lops the glades;
And year by year our memory fades
From all the circle of the hills.'

TENNYSON.

The last day came; the house was full of packing-cases, which
were being carted off at the front door, to the nearest railway
station. Even the pretty lawn at the side of the house was made
unsightly and untidy by the straw that had been wafted upon it
through the open door and windows. The rooms had a strange
echoing sound in them,--and the light came harshly and strongly
in through the uncurtained windows,--seeming already unfamiliar
and strange.

Mrs. Hale's dressing-room was left untouched to the
last; and there she and Dixon were packing up clothes, and
interrupting each other every now and then to exclaim at, and
turn over with fond regard, some forgotten treasure, in the shape
of some relic of the children while they were yet little. They
did not make much progress with their work. Down-stairs, Margaret
stood calm and collected, ready to counsel or advise the men who
had been called in to help the cook and Charlotte. These two
last, crying between whiles, wondered how the young lady could
keep up so this last day, and settled it between them that she
was not likely to care much for Helstone, having been so long in
London.

There she stood, very pale and quiet, with her large
grave eyes observing everything,--up to every present
circumstance, however small. They could not understand how her
heart was aching all the time, with a heavy pressure that no
sighs could lift off or relieve, and how constant exertion for
her perceptive faculties was the only way to keep herself from
crying out with pain. Moreover, if she gave way, who was to act?
Her father was examining papers, books, registers, what not, in
the vestry with the clerk; and when he came in, there were his
own books to pack up, which no one but himself could do to his
satisfaction.

Besides, was Margaret one to give way before
strange men, or even household friends like the cook and
Charlotte! Not she. But at last the four packers went into the
kitchen to their tea; and Margaret moved stiffly and slowly away
from the place in the hall where she had been standing so long,
out through the bare echoing drawing-room, into the twilight of
an early November evening. There was a filmy veil of soft dull
mist obscuring, but not hiding, all objects, giving them a lilac
hue, for the sun had not yet fully set; a robin was
singing,--perhaps, Margaret thought, the very robin that her
father had so often talked of as his winter pet, and for which he
had made, with his own hands, a kind of robin-house by his
study-window. The leaves were more gorgeous than ever; the first
touch of frost would lay them all low on the ground. Already one
or two kept constantly floating down, amber and golden in the low
slanting sun-rays.

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