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Margaret, "for all that. You could not
stand it. You would have to be out all
weathers. It would kill you with rheumatism.
The mere bodily work at your time of life
would break you down. The fare is far
different to what you have been accustomed to."

"I'se nought particular about my meat,"
said he, as if offended.

"But you've reckoned on having butcher's
meat once a day, if you're in work; pay for
that out of your ten shillings, and keep those
poor children if you can. I owe it to you
since it's my way of talking that has set you
off on this ideato put it all clear before you.
You would not bear the dulness of the life;
you don't know what it is; it would eat you
away like rust. Those that have lived there
all their lives, are used to soaking in the
stagnant waters. They labour on from day
to day in the great solitude of steaming fields
never speaking or lifting up their poor,
bent, downcast heads. The hard spade-work
robs their brain of life; the sameness of their
toil deadens their imagination; they don't care
to meet to talk over thoughts and speculations,
even of the weakest, wildest kind, after
their work is done; they go home brutishly
tired, poor creatures! caring for nothing but
food and rest. You could not stir them up
into any companionship you get in a town
as plentiful as the air you breathe, whether
it be good or bad; and that I don't know;
but I do know, that you of all men are not
one to bear a life among such labourers.
What would be peace to them, would be
eternal fretting to you. Think no more
of it, Nicholas, I beg. Besides, you could
never pay to get mother and children all
therethat's one good thing."

"I've reckoned for that. One house mun
do for us a', and the furniture o' t'other
would go a good way. And men there mun
have their families to keepmappen six or
seven childer. God help 'em! "said he, more
convinced by his own presentation of the
facts than by all Margaret had said, and
suddenly renouncing the idea which had but
recently formed itself in a brain worn out by
the day's fatigue and anxiety. "God help
'em! North an' South have each getten
their own troubles. If work's sure and
steady there, labour's paid at starvation prices;
while here we've rucks o' money coming in
one quarter, and ne'er a farthing th' next.
For sure, th' world is in a confusion that
passes me or any other man to understand;
it needs fettling, and who's to fettle it, if it's
as you folks say, and there's nought but
what we see?"

Mr. Hale was busy cutting bread and
butter; Margaret was glad of this, for she
saw that Higgins was better left to himself:
that if her father began to speak ever so
mildly on the subject of Higgins's thoughts,
the latter would consider himself challenged
to an argument, and would feel himself
bound to maintain his old ground. She and
her father kept up an indifferent conversation
until Higgins, scarcely aware whether
he ate or not, had made a very substantial
meal. Then he pushed his chair away from
the table, and tried to take an interest in
what they were saying; but it was of no
use; and he fell back into dreamy gloom.
Suddenly Margaret said (she had been
thinking of it for some time, but the words
had stuck in her throat), "Higgins, have you
been to Marlborough Mills to seek for work?"

"Thornton's?" asked he. "Ay, I've
been at Thornton's."

"And what did he say?"

"Such a chap as me is not like to see the
measter. Th' o'erlooker bid me go and be

"I wish you had seen Mr. Thornton,"
said Mr. Hale. "He might not have given
you work, but he would not have used such

"As to th' language, I'm welly used to it;
it dunnot matter to me. I'm not nesh mysel
when I'm put out. It were th' fact that I
were na wanted there, no more nor ony other
place, as I minded."

"But I wish you had seen Mr. Thornton,"
repeated Margaret. "Would you go again
it's a good deal to ask, I knowbut would
you go to-morrow and try him? I should be
so glad if you would."

"I'm afraid it would be of no use," said
Mr. Hale, in a low voice. It would be better
to let me speak to him." Margaret still
looked at Higgins for his answer. Those
grave soft eyes of hers were difficult to resist.
He gave a great sigh.

"It would tax my pride above a bit; if it
were for mysel, I could stand a deal of
clemming first; I'd sooner knock him down
than ask a favour from him. I'd a deal
sooner be flogged mysel; but yo're not a
common wench, axing yo'r pardon, nor yet
have yo common ways about yo. I'll e'en
make a wry face, and go at it to-morrow.
Dunna yo think that he'll do it. That man
has it in him to be burnt at the stake afore
he'll give in. I do it for yo'r sake, Miss
Hale, and its first time in my life as e'er I
give way to a woman. Neither my wife nor
Bess could e'er say that much again me."

"All the more do I thank you," said
Margaret, smiling. "Though I don't believe
you: I believe you have just given way to
wife and daughter as much as most men."

"And as to Mr. Thornton," said Mr. Hale,
"I'll give you a note to him, which, I think I
may venture to say, will ensure you a hearing."

"I thank yo kindly, sir, but I'd as lief
stand on my own bottom. I dunnot stomach
the notion of having favour curried for me
by one as does'nt know the ins and outs of
the quarrel. Meddling 'twixt master and
man is liker meddling 'twixt husband and
wife than aught else: it takes a deal o' wisdom
for to do ony good. I'll stand guard at the
lodge door. I'll stand there fra six in the