North and South (Chapter 3, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 3

'Learn to win a lady's faith
Nobly, as the thing is high;
Bravely, as for life and death--
With a loyal gravity.

Lead her from the festive boards,
Point her to the starry skies,
Guard her, by your truthful words,
Pure from courtship's flatteries.'

MRS. BROWNING.

'Mr. Henry Lennox.' Margaret had been thinking of him only a
moment before, and remembering his inquiry into her probable
occupations at home. It was 'parler du soleil et l'on en voit les
rayons;' and the brightness of the sun came over Margaret's face
as she put down her board, and went forward to shake hands with
him. 'Tell mamma, Sarah,' said she. 'Mamma and I want to ask you
so many questions about Edith; I am so much obliged to you for
coming.' 'Did not I say that I should?' asked he, in a lower tone than
that in which she had spoken.

'But I heard of you so far away in the Highlands that I never
thought Hampshire could come in.

'Oh!' said he, more lightly, 'our young couple were playing such
foolish pranks, running all sorts of risks, climbing this
mountain, sailing on that lake, that I really thought they needed
a Mentor to take care of them. And indeed they did; they were
quite beyond my uncle's management, and kept the old gentleman in
a panic for sixteen hours out of the twenty-four. Indeed, when I
once saw how unfit they were to be trusted alone, I thought it my
duty not to leave them till I had seen them safely embarked at
Plymouth.' 'Have you been at Plymouth? Oh! Edith never named that. To be
sure, she has written in such a hurry lately. Did they really
sail on Tuesday?' 'Really sailed, and relieved me from many responsibilities. Edith
gave me all sorts of messages for you. I believe I have a little
diminutive note somewhere; yes, here it is.' 'Oh! thank you,' exclaimed Margaret; and then, half wishing to
read it alone and unwatched, she made the excuse of going to tell
her mother again (Sarah surely had made some mistake) that Mr.
Lennox was there.

When she had left the room, he began in his scrutinising way to
look about him. The little drawing-room was looking its best in
the streaming light of the morning sun. The middle window in the
bow was opened, and clustering roses and the scarlet honeysuckle
came peeping round the corner; the small lawn was gorgeous with
verbenas and geraniums of all bright colours. But the very
brightness outside made the colours within seem poor and faded.
The carpet was far from new; the chintz had been often washed;
the whole apartment was smaller and shabbier than he had
expected, as back-ground and frame-work for Margaret, herself so
queenly. He took up one of the books lying on the table; it was
the Paradiso of Dante, in the proper old Italian binding of white
vellum and gold; by it lay a dictionary, and some words copied
out in Margaret's hand-writing. They were a dull list of words,
but somehow he liked looking at them. He put them down with a
sigh.

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