Page:Gaskell - North and South, vol. I, 1855.djvu/51

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37
NORTH AND SOUTH.

appeared through the window: he only awaited Mrs. Hale's permission. She would rather have wound up the dinner in the proper way, and with all the ceremonies which had gone on so smoothly hitherto, especially as she and Dixon had got out the finger-glasses from the store-room on purpose to be as correct as became General Shaw's widow's sister, but as Mr. Hale got up directly, and prepared to accompany his guest, she could only submit.

"I shall arm myself with a knife," said Mr. Hale: "The days of eating fruit so primitively as you describe are over with me. I must pare it and quarter it before I can enjoy it."

Margaret made a plate for the pears out of a beetroot leaf, which threw up their brown gold colour admirably. Mr. Lennox looked more at her than at the pears; but her father, inclined to cull fastidiously the very zest and perfection of the hour he had stolen from his anxiety, chose daintily the ripest fruit, and sat down on the garden bench to enjoy it at his leisure. Margaret and Mr. Lennox strolled along the little terrace-walk under the south wall, where the bees still hummed and worked busily in their hives.

"What a perfect life you seem to live here! I have always felt rather contemptuously towards the poets before, with their wishes, 'Mine be a cot beside a hill,' and that sort of thing: but now I am afraid that the truth is, I have been nothing better than a cockney. Just now I feel as if twenty years' hard study of law would be amply rewarded by one year of such an exquisite serene life as this—such skies!" looking up—"such crimson and