North and South

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'But are all these quite necessary troubles?' asked Margaret, looking up straight at him for an answer. A sense of indescribable weariness of all the arrangements for a pretty effect, in which Edith had been busied as supreme authority for the last six weeks, oppressed her just now; and she really wanted some one to help her to a few pleasant, quiet ideas connected with a marriage.

'Oh, of course,' he replied with a change to gravity in his tone. 'There are forms and ceremonies to be gone through, not so much to satisfy oneself, as to stop the world's mouth, without which stoppage there would be very little satisfaction in life. But how would you have a wedding arranged?'

'Oh, I have never thought much about it; only I should like it to be a very fine summer morning; and I should like to walk to church through the shade of trees; and not to have so many bridesmaids, and to have no wedding-breakfast. I dare say I am resolving against the very things that have given me the most trouble just now.'

'No, I don't think you are. The idea of stately simplicity accords well with your character.'

Margaret did not quite like this speech; she winced away from it more, from remembering former occasions on which he had tried to lead her into a discussion (in which he took the complimentary part) about her own character and ways of going on. She cut his speech rather short by saying:

'It is natural for me to think of Helstone church, and the walk to it, rather than of driving up to a London church in the middle of a paved street.'

'Tell me about Helstone. You have never described it to me. I should like to have some idea of the place you will be living in, when ninety-six Harley Street will be looking dingy and dirty, and dull, and shut up. Is Helstone a village, or a town, in the first place?'

'Oh, only a hamlet; I don't think I could call it a village at all. There is the church and a few houses near it on the green--cottages, rather--with roses growing all over them.'

'And flowering all the year round, especially at Christmas--make your picture complete,' said he.

'No,' replied Margaret, somewhat annoyed, 'I am not making a picture. I am trying to describe Helstone as it really is. You should not have said that.'

'I am penitent,' he answered. 'Only it really sounded like a village in a tale rather than in real life.'

'And so it is,' replied Margaret, eagerly. 'All the other places in England that I have seen seem so hard and prosaic-looking, after the New Forest. Helstone is like a village in a poem--in one of Tennyson's poems. But I won't try and describe it any more. You would only laugh at me if I told you what I think of it--what it really is.'

'Indeed, I would not. But I see you are going to be very resolved. Well, then, tell me that which I should like still better to know what the parsonage is like.'

'Oh, I can't describe my home. It is home, and I can't put its charm into words.'

'I submit. You are rather severe to-night, Margaret.

'How?' said she, turning her large soft eyes round full upon him. 'I did not know I was.'

'Why, because I made an unlucky remark, you will neither tell me what Helstone is like, nor will you say anything about your home, though I have told you how much I want to hear about both, the latter especially.'

'But indeed I cannot tell you about my own home. I don't quite think it is a thing to be talked about, unless you knew it.'

'Well, then'--pausing for a moment--'tell me what you do there. Here you read, or have lessons, or otherwise improve your mind, till the middle of the day; take a walk before lunch, go a drive with your aunt after, and have some kind of engagement in the evening. There, now fill up your day at Helstone. Shall you ride, drive, or walk?'

'Walk, decidedly. We have no horse, not even for papa. He walks to the very extremity of his parish. The walks are so beautiful, it would be a shame to drive--almost a shame to ride.'

'Shall you garden much? That, I believe, is a proper employment for young ladies in the country.'

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