North and South (Chapter 1, page 2 of 8)


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Chapter 1

Edith had rather objected to this arrangement, for Captain Lennox
was expected to arrive by a late train this very evening; but,
although she was a spoiled child, she was too careless and idle
to have a very strong will of her own, and gave way when she
found that her mother had absolutely ordered those extra
delicacies of the season which are always supposed to be
efficacious against immoderate grief at farewell dinners. She
contented herself by leaning back in her chair, merely playing
with the food on her plate, and looking grave and absent; while
all around her were enjoying the mots of Mr. Grey, the gentleman
who always took the bottom of the table at Mrs. Shaw's dinner
parties, and asked Edith to give them some music in the
drawing-room. Mr. Grey was particularly agreeable over this
farewell dinner, and the gentlemen staid down stairs longer than
usual. It was very well they did--to judge from the fragments of
conversation which Margaret overheard.

'I suffered too much myself; not that I was not extremely happy
with the poor dear General, but still disparity of age is a
drawback; one that I was resolved Edith should not have to
encounter. Of course, without any maternal partiality, I foresaw
that the dear child was likely to marry early; indeed, I had
often said that I was sure she would be married before she was
nineteen. I had quite a prophetic feeling when Captain
Lennox'--and here the voice dropped into a whisper, but Margaret
could easily supply the blank. The course of true love in Edith's
case had run remarkably smooth. Mrs. Shaw had given way to the
presentiment, as she expressed it; and had rather urged on the
marriage, although it was below the expectations which many of
Edith's acquaintances had formed for her, a young and pretty
heiress. But Mrs. Shaw said that her only child should marry for
love,--and sighed emphatically, as if love had not been her
motive for marrying the General. Mrs. Shaw enjoyed the romance of
the present engagement rather more than her daughter. Not but
that Edith was very thoroughly and properly in love; still she
would certainly have preferred a good house in Belgravia, to all
the picturesqueness of the life which Captain Lennox described at
Corfu. The very parts which made Margaret glow as she listened,
Edith pretended to shiver and shudder at; partly for the pleasure
she had in being coaxed out of her dislike by her fond lover, and
partly because anything of a gipsy or make-shift life was really
distasteful to her. Yet had any one come with a fine house, and a
fine estate, and a fine title to boot, Edith would still have
clung to Captain Lennox while the temptation lasted; when it was
over, it is possible she might have had little qualms of
ill-concealed regret that Captain Lennox could not have united in
his person everything that was desirable. In this she was but her
mother's child; who, after deliberately marrying General Shaw
with no warmer feeling than respect for his character and
establishment, was constantly, though quietly, bemoaning her hard
lot in being united to one whom she could not love.

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