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staying; and I shouldn't have told him if he had asked. Nor did I ask him what his precious situation was. He was waiting for a bus, and just then it drove up, and he hailed it. But, to plague me to the last, he turned back before he got in, and said, "If you can help me to trap Lieutenant Hale, Miss Dixon, we'll go partners in the reward. I know you'd like to be my partner, now wouldn't you? Don't be shy, but say yes." And he jumped on the bus, and I saw his ugly face leering at me with a wicked smile to think how he'd had the last word of plaguing.'
Margaret was made very uncomfortable by this account of Dixon's.
'Have you told Frederick?' asked she.
'No,' said Dixon. 'I were uneasy in my mind at knowing that bad Leonards was in town; but there was so much else to think about that I did not dwell on it at all. But when I saw master sitting so stiff, and with his eyes so glazed and sad, I thought it might rouse him to have to think of Master Frederick's safety a bit. So I told him all, though I blushed to say how a young man had been speaking to me. And it has done master good. And if we're to keep Master Frederick in hiding, he would have to go, poor fellow, before Mr. Bell came.'
'Oh, I'm not afraid of Mr. Bell; but I am afraid of this Leonards. I must tell Frederick. What did Leonards look like?'
'A bad-looking fellow, I can assure you, miss. Whiskers such as I should be ashamed to wear--they are so red. And for all he said he'd got a confidential situation, he was dressed in fustian just like a working-man.'
It was evident that Frederick must go. Go, too, when he had so completely vaulted into his place in the family, and promised to be such a stay and staff to his father and sister. Go, when his cares for the living mother, and sorrow for the dead, seemed to make him one of those peculiar people who are bound to us by a fellow-love for them that are taken away. Just as Margaret was thinking all this, sitting over the drawing-room fire--her father restless and uneasy under the pressure of this newly-aroused fear, of which he had not as yet spoken--Frederick came in, his brightness dimmed, but the extreme violence of his grief passed away. He came up to Margaret, and kissed her forehead.
'How wan you look, Margaret!' said he in a low voice. 'You have been thinking of everybody, and no one has thought of you. Lie on this sofa--there is nothing for you to do.'
'That is the worst,' said Margaret, in a sad whisper. But she went and lay down, and her brother covered her feet with a shawl, and then sate on the ground by her side; and the two began to talk in a subdued tone.
Margaret told him all that Dixon had related of her interview with young Leonards. Frederick's lips closed with a long whew of dismay.
'I should just like to have it out with that young fellow. A worse sailor was never on board ship--nor a much worse man either. I declare, Margaret--you know the circumstances of the whole affair?'
'Yes, mamma told me.'
'Well, when all the sailors who were good for anything were indignant with our captain, this fellow, to curry favour--pah! And to think of his being here! Oh, if he'd a notion I was within twenty miles of him, he'd ferret me out to pay off old grudges. I'd rather anybody had the hundred pounds they think I am worth than that rascal. What a pity poor old Dixon could not be persuaded to give me up, and make a provision for her old age!'
'Oh, Frederick, hush! Don't talk so.'
Mr. Hale came towards them, eager and trembling. He had overheard what they were saying. He took Frederick's hand in both of his:
'My boy, you must go. It is very bad--but I see you must. You have done all you could--you have been a comfort to her.'
'Oh, papa, must he go?' said Margaret, pleading against her own conviction of necessity.
'I declare, I've a good mind to face it out, and stand my trial. If I could only pick up my evidence! I cannot endure the thought of being in the power of such a blackguard as Leonards. I could almost have enjoyed--in other circumstances--this stolen visit: it has had all the charm which the French-woman attributed to forbidden pleasures.'
'One of the earliest things I can remember,' said Margaret, 'was your being in some great disgrace, Fred, for stealing apples. We had plenty of our own--trees loaded with them; but some one had told you that stolen fruit tasted sweetest, which you took au pied de la lettre, and off you went a-robbing. You have not changed your feelings much since then.'
'Yes--you must go,' repeated Mr. Hale, answering Margaret's question, which she had asked some time ago. His thoughts were fixed on one subject, and it was an effort to him to follow the zig-zag remarks of his children--an effort which ho did not make.
Margaret and Frederick looked at each other. That quick momentary sympathy would be theirs no longer if he went away. So much was understood through eyes that could not be put into words. Both coursed the same thought till it was lost in sadness. Frederick shook it off first:
'Do you know, Margaret, I was very nearly giving both Dixon and myself a good fright this afternoon. I was in my bedroom; I had heard a ring at the front door, but I thought the ringer must have done his business and gone away long ago; so I was on the point of making my appearance in the passage, when, as I opened my room door, I saw Dixon coming downstairs; and she frowned and kicked me into hiding again. I kept the door open, and heard a message given to some man that was in my father's study, and that then went away. Who could it have been? Some of the shopmen?'
'Very likely,' said Margaret, indifferently. 'There was a little quiet man who came up for orders about two o'clock.'
'But this was not a little man--a great powerful fellow; and it was past four when he was here.'
'It was Mr. Thornton,' said Mr. Hale. They were glad to have drawn him into the conversation.
'Mr. Thornton!' said Margaret, a little surprised. 'I thought----'
'Well, little one, what did you think?' asked Frederick, as she did not finish her sentence.
'Oh, only,' said she, reddening and looking straight at him, 'I fancied you meant some one of a different class, not a gentleman; somebody come on an errand.'
'He looked like some one of that kind,' said Frederick, carelessly. 'I took him for a shopman, and he turns out a manufacturer.'
Margaret was silent. She remembered how at first, before she knew his character, she had spoken and thought of him just as Frederick was doing. It was but a natural impression that was made upon him, and yet she was a little annoyed by it. She was unwilling to speak; she wanted to make Frederick understand what kind of person Mr. Thornton was--but she was tongue-tied.
Mr. Hale went on. 'He came to offer any assistance in his power, I believe. But I could not see him. I told Dixon to ask him if he would like to see you--I think I asked her to find you, and you would go to him. I don't know what I said.'
'He has been a very agreeable acquaintance, has he not?' asked Frederick, throwing the question like a ball for any one to catch who chose.
'A very kind friend,' said Margaret, when her father did not answer.
Frederick was silent for a time. At last he spoke:
'Margaret, it is painful to think I can never thank those who have shown you kindness. Your acquaintances and mine must be separate. Unless, indeed, I run the chances of a court-martial, or unless you and my father would come to Spain.' He threw out this last suggestion as a kind of feeler; and then suddenly made the plunge. 'You don't know how I wish you would. I have a good position--the chance of a better,' continued he, reddening like a girl. 'That Dolores Barbour that I was telling you of, Margaret--I only wish you knew her; I am sure you would like--no, love is the right word, like is so poor--you would love her, father, if you knew her. She is not eighteen; but if she is in the same mind another year, she is to be my wife. Mr. Barbour won't let us call it an engagement. But if you would come, you would find friends everywhere, besides Dolores. Think of it, father. Margaret, be on my side.'
'No--no more removals for me,' said Mr. Hale. 'One removal has cost me my wife. No more removals in this life. She will be here; and here will I stay out my appointed time.'
'Oh, Frederick,' said Margaret, 'tell us more about her. I never thought of this; but I am so glad. You will have some one to love and care for you out there. Tell us all about it.'
'In the first place, she is a Roman Catholic. That's the only objection I anticipated. But my father's change of opinion--nay, Margaret, don't sigh.'
Margaret had reason to sigh a little more before the conversation ended. Frederick himself was Roman Catholic in fact, though not in profession as yet. This was, then, the reason why his sympathy in her extreme distress at her father's leaving the Church had been so faintly expressed in his letters. She had thought it was the carelessness of a sailor; but the truth was, that even then he was himself inclined to give up the form of religion into which he had been baptised, only that his opinions were tending in exactly the opposite direction to those of his father. How much love had to do with this change not even Frederick himself
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