North and South (Chapter 3, page 2 of 8)


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Chapter 3

'The living is evidently as small as she said. It seems strange,
for the Beresfords belong to a good family.' Margaret meanwhile had found her mother. It was one of Mrs.
Hale's fitful days, when everything was a difficulty and a
hardship; and Mr. Lennox's appearance took this shape, although
secretly she felt complimented by his thinking it worth while to
call.

'It is most unfortunate! We are dining early to-day, and having
nothing but cold meat, in order that the servants may get on with
their ironing; and yet, of course, we must ask him to
dinner--Edith's brother-in-law and all. And your papa is in such
low spirits this morning about something--I don't know what. I
went into the study just now, and he had his face on the table,
covering it with his hands. I told him I was sure Helstone air
did not agree with him any more than with me, and he suddenly
lifted up his head, and begged me not to speak a word more
against Helstone, he could not bear it; if there was one place he
loved on earth it was Helstone. But I am sure, for all that, it
is the damp and relaxing air.' Margaret felt as if a thin cold cloud had come between her and
the sun. She had listened patiently, in hopes that it might be
some relief to her mother to unburden herself; but now it was
time to draw her back to Mr. Lennox.

'Papa likes Mr. Lennox; they got on together famously at the
wedding breakfast. I dare say his coming will do papa good. And
never mind the dinner, dear mamma. Cold meat will do capitally
for a lunch, which is the light in which Mr. Lennox will most
likely look upon a two o'clock dinner.' 'But what are we to do with him till then? It is only half-past
ten now.' 'I'll ask him to go out sketching with me. I know he draws, and
that will take him out of your way, mamma. Only do come in now;
he will think it so strange if you don't.' Mrs. Hale took off her black silk apron, and smoothed her face.
She looked a very pretty lady-like woman, as she greeted Mr.
Lennox with the cordiality due to one who was almost a relation.
He evidently expected to be asked to spend the day, and accepted
the invitation with a glad readiness that made Mrs. Hale wish she
could add something to the cold beef. He was pleased with
everything; delighted with Margaret's idea of going out sketching
together; would not have Mr. Hale disturbed for the world, with
the prospect of so soon meeting him at dinner. Margaret brought
out her drawing materials for him to choose from; and after the
paper and brushes had been duly selected, the two set out in the
merriest spirits in the world.

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