North and South (Chapter 1, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 1

'Wooed and married and a'.

' 'Edith!' said Margaret, gently, 'Edith!'

But, as Margaret half suspected, Edith had fallen asleep. She lay
curled up on the sofa in the back drawing-room in Harley Street,
looking very lovely in her white muslin and blue ribbons. If
Titania had ever been dressed in white muslin and blue ribbons,
and had fallen asleep on a crimson damask sofa in a back
drawing-room, Edith might have been taken for her. Margaret was
struck afresh by her cousin's beauty. They had grown up together
from childhood, and all along Edith had been remarked upon by
every one, except Margaret, for her prettiness; but Margaret had
never thought about it until the last few days, when the prospect
of soon losing her companion seemed to give force to every sweet
quality and charm which Edith possessed.

They had been talking
about wedding dresses, and wedding ceremonies; and Captain
Lennox, and what he had told Edith about her future life at
Corfu, where his regiment was stationed; and the difficulty of
keeping a piano in good tune (a difficulty which Edith seemed to
consider as one of the most formidable that could befall her in
her married life), and what gowns she should want in the visits
to Scotland, which would immediately succeed her marriage; but
the whispered tone had latterly become more drowsy; and Margaret,
after a pause of a few minutes, found, as she fancied, that in
spite of the buzz in the next room, Edith had rolled herself up
into a soft ball of muslin and ribbon, and silken curls, and gone
off into a peaceful little after-dinner nap.

Margaret had been on the point of telling her cousin of some of
the plans and visions which she entertained as to her future life
in the country parsonage, where her father and mother lived; and
where her bright holidays had always been passed, though for the
last ten years her aunt Shaw's house had been considered as her
home. But in default of a listener, she had to brood over the
change in her life silently as heretofore. It was a happy
brooding, although tinged with regret at being separated for an
indefinite time from her gentle aunt and dear cousin. As she
thought of the delight of filling the important post of only
daughter in Helstone parsonage, pieces of the conversation out of
the next room came upon her ears. Her aunt Shaw was talking to
the five or six ladies who had been dining there, and whose
husbands were still in the dining-room. They were the familiar
acquaintances of the house; neighbours whom Mrs. Shaw called
friends, because she happened to dine with them more frequently
than with any other people, and because if she or Edith wanted
anything from them, or they from her, they did not scruple to
make a call at each other's houses before luncheon. These ladies
and their husbands were invited, in their capacity of friends, to
eat a farewell dinner in honour of Edith's approaching marriage.

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