“NE’ER TO BE FOUND AGAIN.”by@elizabethgaskell


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“My own, my father’s friend!I cannot part with thee!I ne’er have shown, thou ne’er hast known,How dear thou art to me.”Anon. The elements of the dinner-parties which Mrs. Lennox gave, were these; her friends contributed the beauty, Captain Lennox the easy knowledge of the subjects of the day; and Mr. Henry Lennox, and the sprinkling of rising men who were received as his friends, brought the wit, the cleverness, the keen and extensive knowledge of which they knew well enough how to avail themselves without seeming pedantic, or burdening the rapid flow of conversation. These dinners were delightful; but even here Margaret’s dissatisfaction found her out. Every talent, every feeling, every acquirement; nay, even every tendency towards virtue, was used up as materials for fireworks; the hidden, sacred fire, exhausted itself in sparkle and crackle. They talked about art in a merely sensuous way, dwelling on outside effects, instead of allowing themselves to learn what it has to teach. They lashed themselves up into an enthusiasm about high subjects in company, and never thought about them when they were alone; they squandered their capabilities of appreciation into a mere flow of appropriate words. One day, after the gentlemen had come up into the drawing-room, Mr. Lennox drew near to Margaret, and addressed her in almost the first voluntary words he had spoken to her since she had returned to live in Harley Street. “You did not look pleased at what Shirley was saying at dinner.” “Didn’t I? My face must be very expressive,” replied Margaret. “It always was. It has not lost the trick of being eloquent.” “I did not like,” said Margaret, hastily, “his way of advocating what he knew to be wrong—so glaringly wrong—even in jest.” “But it was very clever. How every word told! Did you remember the happy epithets?” “Yes.” “And despise them, you would like to add. Pray don’t scruple, though he is my friend.” “There! that is the exact tone in you, that”—she stopped short. He listened for a moment to see if she would finish her sentence; but she only reddened, and turned away; before she did so, however, she heard him say, in a very low, clear voice,— “If my tones, or modes of thought, are what you dislike, will you do me the justice to tell me so, and so give me the chance of learning to please you.” All these weeks there was no intelligence of Mr. Bell’s going to Milton. He had spoken of it at Helstone as of a journey which he might have to take in a very short time from then; but he must have transacted his business by writing. Margaret thought, ere now, and she knew that if he could, he would avoid going to a place which he disliked, and moreover would little understand the secret importance which she affixed to the explanation that could only be given by word of mouth. She knew that he would feel that it was necessary that it should be done; but whether in summer, autumn, or winter, it would signify very little. It was now August, and there had been no mention of the Spanish journey to which he had alluded to Edith, and Margaret tried to reconcile herself to the fading away of this illusion.
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Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

Renowned English novelist, biographer and short story writer

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