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and Miss Smiths which would probably be,
otherwise, directed into my garden, to disturb
my reveries.




MARGARET made a good listener to all
her mother's little plans for adding some
small comforts to the lot of the poorer
parishioners. She could not help listening,
though each new project was a slab
to her heart. By the time the frost had set
in they should be far away from Helstone;
old Simon's rheumatism might be bad and
his eyesight worse; there would be no one
to go and read to him, and comfort him with
little porringers of broth and good red
flannel: or if there was, it would be a
stranger, and the old man would watch in vain
for her. Mary Domville's little crippled
boy would crawl in vain to the door and look
for her coming through the forest. These
poor friends would never understand why
she had forsaken them; and there were
many others besides: " Papa has always
spent the income he derived from his living
in the parish. I am, perhaps, encroaching
upon the next dues, but the winter is likely
to be severe, and our poor old people must be

'* Oh, mamma, let us do all we can," said
Margaret eagerly, not seeing the prudential
side of the question, only grasping at the
idea that they were rendering such help for
the last time; " we may not be here long."

"Do you feel ill, my darling?" asked Mrs.
Hale, anxiously, misunderstanding
Margaret's hint of the uncertainty of their stay at
Helstone. " You look pale and tired. It is
this soft, damp, unhealthy air."

"Nono, mamma, it is not that: it is
delicious air. It smells of the freshest,
purest fragrance, after the smokiness of
Harley Street. But I am tired: it surely must
be near bedtime."

"Not far offit is half-past nine. You
had better go to bed at once, dear. Ask
Dixon for some gruel. I will come and see
you as soon as you are in bed. I am afraid
you have taken cold; or the bad air from
some of the stagnant ponds—"

"Oh, mamma," said Margaret, faintly
smiling as she kissed her mother, "I am
quite welldon't alarm yourself about me;
I am only tired."

Margaret went upstairs. To soothe her
mother's anxiety she submitted to a basin of
gruel. She was lying languidly in bed when
Mrs. Hale came up to make some last
inquiries and to kiss her before going to her
own room for the night. But the instant she
heard her mother's door locked, she sprang
out of bed, and throwing her dressing-gown
on, she began to pace up and down the room,
until the creaking of one of the old boards
reminded her that she must make no noise.
She went and curled herself up on the
window-seat in the small, deeply-recessed
window. That morning when she had
looked out, her heart had danced at seeing
the bright clear lights on the church tower,
which foretold a fine and sunny day. This
eveningsixteen hours at most had past
byshe sat down, too full of sorrow to cry,
but with a dull, cold pain, which seemed to
have pressed the youth and buoyancy out of
her heart, never to return. Mr. Henry
Lennox's visithis offerwas like a dream,
a thing beside her actual life. The hard
reality was, that her father had so admitted
tempting doubts into his mind as to become
a schismatican outcast; all the changes
consequent upon this grouped themselves
around that one great blighting fact.

She looked out upon the dark-gray lines of
the church tower, square and straight in the
centre of the view, cutting against the deep-blue
transparent depths beyond, into which
she gazed, and felt that she might gaze for
ever, seeing at every moment some farther
distance, and yet no sign of God! It seemed
to her at the moment as if the earth was
more utterly desolate than if girt in by an
iron dome, behind which there might be the
ineffaceable peace and glory of the Almighty:
those never-ending depths of space, in their
still serenity, were more mocking to her than
any material bounds could beshutting in
the cries of earth's sufferers, which now
might ascend into that infinite splendour of
vastness and be lostlost for ever, before
they reached His throne. In this mood her
father came in unheard. The moonlight was
strong enough to let him see his daughter in
her unusual place and attitude. He came to
her and touched her shoulder before she was
aware that he was there.

"Margaret, I heard you were up. I could
not help coming in to ask you to pray with
meto say the Lord's Prayer; that will do
good to both of us."

Mr. Hale and Margaret knelt by the
window-seathe looking up, she bowed down
in humble shame. God was there, close
around them, hearing her father's whispered
words. Her father might be a heretic; but
had not she, in her despairing doubts not five
minutes before, shown herself a far more
utter sceptic? She spoke not a word,
but stole to bed after her father had left her,
like a child ashamed of its fault. If the
world was full of perplexing problems she
would trust, and only ask to see the one step
needful for the hour. Mr. Lennoxhis visit, his
proposalthe remembrance of which had been
so rudely pushed aside by the subsequent
events of the dayhaunted her dreams that
night. He was climbing up some tree of
fabulous height to reach the branch whereon

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