Margaret Capel: A Novel, vol. 3 of 3

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For not to think of what I need’s must feel,
But to be still and patient all I can,
And haply, by abstruse research, to steal
From my own nature all the natural man:
This was my sole resource, my only plan.


And time, that mirrors on its stream aye flowing
Hope’s starry beam, despondency’s dark shade;
Green early leaves, flowers in warm sunshine blowing,
Boughs by sharp winter’s breath all leafless made.


Margaret remained for more than a year in the most perfect retirement. The solitude of Ashdale was nothing to that of Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s cottage. This tranquillity was well adapted to her state of feeling: she never experienced a wish to interrupt it. She was sincerely attached to her hostess. Although reserved, Mrs. Fitzpatrick was even-tempered; and she became very fond of Margaret, whose society filled up such a painful blank in her home. Both had suffered much, though neither ever alluded to her sufferings: and sorrow is always a bond of union. When first she came to Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s, her health was so delicate, that the poor lady feared she was to go through a second ordeal, similar to the one she had lately submitted to with her own child. Margaret had a terrible cough and frequent pain in the side, and whenever Mrs. Fitzpatrick saw her pause on her way down stairs with her hand pressed on her heart, or heard the well-known and distressing sound of the cough, the memory of her daughter was almost too painfully renewed. But Mr. Lindsay pronounced the cough to be nervous, and the pain in the side nothing of any consequence; and though winter was stealing on, his opinion was borne out by Margaret’s rapid amendment.

Circumstances had long taught Margaret to suffer in silence: she found then no difficulty in assuming a composure of manner that she did not always feel; and soon the healing effects of repose and time were visible in her demeanour. The loss of her uncle was become a softened grief—for her other sorrow, she never named it even to herself. Yet still if any accident suggested to her heart the name of Mr. Haveloc, it would be followed by a sudden shock, as though a dagger had been plunged into it. She could not bear to think of him, and it was a comfort to be in a place where she was never likely to hear him named.

And in the beautiful country, among those fading woods, on that irregular and romantic shore, was to be found the surest antidote for all that she had endured—for all she might still suffer. In the soft, yet boisterous autumn wind—in the swell of the mighty waves—in the fresh breath, ever wafted over their foam, there was health for the body, there was peace to the mind. The scenery was so delightful that she was never tired of rambling—and so secluded, that there was no harm in rambling alone. And though a beauty, and by no means a portionless one, she found means to pass her time without an adventure, unless the vague admiration entertained for her by a young coxcomb who was reading for college with the clergyman, might deserve that name.

This youth, not being very skilful in shooting the sea-gulls, had nothing on earth to do except to make love to the first pretty woman he might encounter. He had literally no choice; for Margaret was the only young lady in the parish. She was waylaid, stared at—was molested in church by nosegays laid on the desk of her pew, and annoyed at home by verses that came in with the breakfast things. She was reduced to walk out only with Mrs. Fitzpatrick; she was debarred from sitting on the beach—gathering nuts in the woods—even from wandering in the garden, unless she could submit to be stared at from the other side of the hedge. Trained, as she was, in the school of adversity, (a capital school, by the way, to make people indifferent to minor evils), she could not help crying with vexation when the butler coolly brought her up the fiftieth copy of wretched verses, setting forth her charms and her cruelty in no measured terms.

Mrs. Fitzpatrick had smiled to see the contempt with which Margaret brushed down the first bouquet among the hassocks, and left the second unnoticed upon the desk; even the sweet scent of the Russian violets had not softened her resolution, and the verses wrapped round their stems became the property of the beadle. But Mrs. Fitzpatrick, really sorry for the annoyance of her young charge, spoke confidently to the good Mr. Fletcher; and she had the pleasure to assure Margaret that the Hon. Mr. Florestan was going away at Christmas. Still she had felt some surprise and more curiosity at the conduct of so very young a girl, under such circumstances—there had appeared no vanity, no agitation, none of the natural emotion resulting from the novelty of inspiring a passion.

Mr. Florestan was a boy of good family; some people would have called him a man, for he was seventeen and a half; he wrote rhymes and bought hot-house flowers; so many girls would have been delighted at his homage. Margaret seemed merely bored: she cried, as she said, from absolute weariness of him and his scented paper; from the perpetual chafing of a small annoyance. His love was too contemptible to cause a stronger feeling; for herself she had never looked at him, and did not know whether he was tall or short. Once or twice when Mrs. Fitzpatrick had called to her, ‘Look, Margaret, there goes your devoted swain!’ she had been so long in putting down her work, and coming to the window, that he had turned the rocks, or the corner of the road, and the opportunity was lost. And he actually left the place, without her ever having seen more of him than a green coat and brass buttons, with which he was wont to enliven their parish church every Sunday, and which being on an exact level with her eye, she could not without affectation avoid. Such entire indifference to a conquest, Mrs. Fitzpatrick could not understand, and she told Margaret with a smile, that some day she would be more indulgent to the feelings of a lover than she seemed at present. The well-known sharp pain went through Margaret’s heart as she spoke; but she smiled too, and said she had a great respect for lovers, but she saw no cause to enrol the Hon. Mr. Florestan in their ranks. And so the subject dropped.

After this, many months passed in such stillness, that Margaret hardly knew how they flew. Her only regular correspondent was Lady d’Eyncourt. Her letters formed the one excitement of her life. It was so delightful to trace her from place to place; to hear the little anecdotes of her travels—even the name of Captain Gage, mentioned casually, brought back vividly to her remembrance, the many happy days she had passed at Chirke Weston. And in the few allusions to her husband that her letters contained, it was evident that the devotion she felt for him before marriage, had increased, and was still gathering strength in a degree that it was perilous to indulge. She said, herself, that the unclouded sunshine of her life could hardly last. To say that she adored Sir Philip, was no figure of speech in her case. The more intimately she became acquainted with his character, the more she found to love and to respect. He had no little faults. The reserve which repelled others, vanished entirely with her; and the most exacting of an exacting sex, must have been content with the measure of his fondness. She was not so much his first, as his only object. Captain Gage often said that they were made for each other, and neither party seemed inclined to dispute the opinion. At last, the storm came. After an unusual silence on the part of Elizabeth, Margaret received a letter—a few lines from Captain Gage, announcing the terrible news of Sir Philip’s death. He had been carried off in a few weeks by a fever, at Marseilles. Elizabeth was expecting to become a mother; and the next hurried intelligence from her father announced the disappointment of her hopes,—and spoke of his intention of taking her on to Italy as soon as her health would permit. These few lines had been sent to her at the desire of Elizabeth, and she could not but feel them a proof of her unaltered friendship.

Margaret felt, after this shock, as young people cumbered with much feeling are apt to do, when they see and hear around them so much of sorrow and alarm. Every thing seemed insecure; she could picture no happiness sufficiently stable to be worth desiring; she looked round to see what new misfortune threatened herself; she was possessed with a feeling of vague apprehension. But her religious impressions, always sincere, and now deepened by the experience of sorrow, enabled her in time to combat this feeling of undue depression.

Always gentle, she became more grave than was common at her years; more than would have been graceful in so young a person, had it not been tempered by the remarkable sweetness of her disposition. She found too the benefit of constant occupation. She learned that nothing so effectually dispels regret.

Her improvement in every branch of knowledge was great enough to content even herself; and in music, her favourite recreation, Mrs. Fitzpatrick often told her that she could at any time have gained her living by her proficiency.

The next event of her tranquil life was the receipt of a box of bride-cake, and a letter from Harriet Conway. This was in the month of November; just three months after the death of Sir Philip.

The letter, which was written in a good bold hand, ran as follows:——

“Ma mie,

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