Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- North and South - 30/103 -
round without either fainting or hysterics. But she wouldn't do either--not she! And the very force of her will brought her round. Such a girl as that would win my heart, if I were thirty years younger. It's too late now. Ah! here we are at the Archers'.' So out he jumped, with thought, wisdom, experience, sympathy, and ready to attend to the calls made upon them by this family, just as if there were none other in the world.
Meanwhile, Margaret had returned into her father's study for a moment, to recover strength before going upstairs into her mother's presence.
'Oh, my God, my God! but this is terrible. How shall I bear it? Such a deadly disease! no hope! Oh, mamma, mamma, I wish I had never gone to aunt Shaw's, and been all those precious years away from you! Poor mamma! how much she must have borne! Oh, I pray thee, my God, that her sufferings may not be too acute, too dreadful. How shall I bear to see them? How can I bear papa's agony? He must not be told yet; not all at once. It would kill him. But I won't lose another moment of my own dear, precious mother.'
She ran upstairs. Dixon was not in the room. Mrs. Hale lay back in an easy chair, with a soft white shawl wrapped around her, and a becoming cap put on, in expectation of the doctor's visit. Her face had a little faint colour in it, and the very exhaustion after the examination gave it a peaceful look. Margaret was surprised to see her look so calm.
'Why, Margaret, how strange you look! What is the matter?' And then, as the idea stole into her mind of what was indeed the real state of the case, she added, as if a little displeased: 'you have not been seeing Dr. Donaldson, and asking him any questions--have you, child?' Margaret did not reply--only looked wistfully towards her. Mrs. Hale became more displeased. 'He would not, surely, break his word to me, and'--
'Oh yes, mamma, he did. I made him. It was I--blame me.'She knelt down by her mother's side, and caught her hand--she would not let it go, though Mrs. Hale tried to pull it away. She kept kissing it, and the hot tears she shed bathed it.
'Margaret, it was very wrong of you. You knew I did not wish you to know.' But, as if tired with the contest, she left her hand in Margaret's clasp, and by-and-by she returned the pressure faintly. That encouraged Margaret to speak.
'Oh, mamma! let me be your nurse. I will learn anything Dixon can teach me. But you know I am your child, and I do think I have a right to do everything for you.'
'You don't know what you are asking,' said Mrs. Hale, with a shudder.
'Yes, I do. I know a great deal more than you are aware of Let me be your nurse. Let me try, at any rate. No one has ever shall ever try so hard as I will do. It will be such a comfort, mamma.'
'My poor child! Well, you shall try. Do you know, Margaret, Dixon and I thought you would quite shrink from me if you knew--'
'Dixon thought!' said Margaret, her lip curling. 'Dixon could not give me credit for enough true love--for as much as herself! She thought, I suppose, that I was one of those poor sickly women who like to lie on rose leaves, and be fanned all day; Don't let Dixon's fancies come any more between you and me, mamma. Don't, please!' implored she.
'Don't be angry with Dixon,' said Mrs. Hale, anxiously. Margaret recovered herself.
'No! I won't. I will try and be humble, and learn her ways, if you will only let me do all I can for you. Let me be in the first place, mother--I am greedy of that. I used to fancy you would forget me while I was away at aunt Shaw's, and cry myself to sleep at nights with that notion in my head.'
'And I used to think, how will Margaret bear our makeshift poverty after the thorough comfort and luxury in Harley Street, till I have many a time been more ashamed of your seeing our contrivances at Helstone than of any stranger finding them out.'
'Oh, mamma! and I did so enjoy them. They were so much more amusing than all the jog-trot Harley Street ways. The wardrobe shelf with handles, that served as a supper-tray on grand occasions! And the old tea-chests stuffed and covered for ottomans! I think what you call the makeshift contrivances at dear Helstone were a charming part of the life there.'
'I shall never see Helstone again, Margaret,' said Mrs. Hale, the tears welling up into her eyes. Margaret could not reply. Mrs. Hale went on. 'While I was there, I was for ever wanting to leave it. Every place seemed pleasanter. And now I shall die far away from it. I am rightly punished.'
'You must not talk so,' said Margaret, impatiently. 'He said you might live for years. Oh, mother! we will have you back at Helstone yet.'
'No never! That I must take as a just penance. But, Margaret--Frederick!' At the mention of that one word, she suddenly cried out loud, as in some sharp agony. It seemed as if the thought of him upset all her composure, destroyed the calm, overcame the exhaustion. Wild passionate cry succeeded to cry--'Frederick! Frederick! Come to me. I am dying. Little first-born child, come to me once again!'
She was in violent hysterics. Margaret went and called Dixon in terror. Dixon came in a huff, and accused Margaret of having over-excited her mother. Margaret bore all meekly, only trusting that her father might not return. In spite of her alarm, which was even greater than the occasion warranted, she obeyed all Dixon's directions promptly and well, without a word of self-justification. By so doing she mollified her accuser. They put her mother to bed, and Margaret sate by her till she fell asleep, and afterwards till Dixon beckoned her out of the room, and, with a sour face, as if doing something against the grain, she bade her drink a cup of coffee which she had prepared for her in the drawing-room, and stood over her in a commanding attitude as she did so.
'You shouldn't have been so curious, Miss, and then you wouldn't have needed to fret before your time. It would have come soon enough. And now, I suppose, you'll tell master, and a pretty household I shall have of you!'
'No, Dixon,' said Margaret, sorrowfully, 'I will not tell papa. He could not bear it as I can.' And by way of proving how well she bore it, she burst into tears.
'Ay! I knew how it would be. Now you'll waken your mamma, just after she's gone to sleep so quietly. Miss Margaret my dear, I've had to keep it down this many a week; and though I don't pretend I can love her as you do, yet I loved her better than any other man, woman, or child--no one but Master Frederick ever came near her in my mind. Ever since Lady Beresford's maid first took me in to see her dressed out in white crape, and corn-ears, and scarlet poppies, and I ran a needle down into my finger, and broke it in, and she tore up her worked pocket-handkerchief, after they'd cut it out, and came in to wet the bandages again with lotion when she returned from the ball--where she'd been the prettiest young lady of all--I've never loved any one like her. I little thought then that I should live to see her brought so low. I don't mean no reproach to nobody. Many a one calls you pretty and handsome, and what not. Even in this smoky place, enough to blind one's eyes, the owls can see that. But you'll never be like your mother for beauty--never; not if you live to be a hundred.'
'Mamma is very pretty still. Poor mamma!'
'Now don't ye set off again, or I shall give way at last' (whimpering). 'You'll never stand master's coming home, and questioning, at this rate. Go out and take a walk, and come in something like. Many's the time I've longed to walk it off--the thought of what was the matter with her, and how it must all end.'
'Oh, Dixon!' said Margaret, 'how often I've been cross with you, not knowing what a terrible secret you had to bear!'
'Bless you, child! I like to see you showing a bit of a spirit. It's the good old Beresford blood. Why, the last Sir John but two shot his steward down, there where he stood, for just telling him that he'd racked the tenants, and he'd racked the tenants till he could get no more money off them than he could get skin off a flint.'
'Well, Dixon, I won't shoot you, and I'll try not to be cross again.'
'You never have. If I've said it at times, it has always been to myself, just in private, by way of making a little agreeable conversation, for there's no one here fit to talk to. And when you fire up, you're the very image of Master Frederick. I could find in my heart to put you in a passion any day, just to see his stormy look coming like a great cloud over your face. But now you go out, Miss. I'll watch over missus; and as for master, his books are company enough for him, if he should come in.'
'I will go,' said Margaret. She hung about Dixon for a minute or so, as if afraid and irresolute; then suddenly kissing her, she went quickly out of the room.
'Bless her!' said Dixon. 'She's as sweet as a nut. There are three people I love: it's missus, Master Frederick, and her. Just them three. That's all. The rest be hanged, for I don't know what they're in the world for. Master was born, I suppose, for to marry missus. If I thought he loved her properly, I might get to love him in time. But he should ha' made a deal more on her, and not been always reading, reading, thinking, thinking. See what it has brought him to! Many a one who never reads nor thinks either, gets to be Rector, and Dean, and what not; and I dare say master might, if he'd just minded missus, and let the weary reading and thinking alone.--There she goes' (looking out of the window as she heard the front door shut). 'Poor young lady! her clothes look shabby to what they did when she came to Helstone a year ago. Then she hadn't so much as a darned stocking or a cleaned pair of gloves in all her wardrobe. And now--!'
Previous Page Next Page
1 10 20 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 103
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything