No One Ever Knew Why Mr. Lennox Did Not Keep To His Appointment
At ten o'clock Mr. Henry Lennox sat at his desk in his chambers at the Temple, his head in his hands and dark circles under his eyes. Since he left his brother's house in Harley Street yesterday he had spent most of last evening walking and none of last night sleeping.
Things had been going so well between him and Margaret Hale. Sure, the woman that he loved had rejected him, but that was almost two years ago and now they were back in regular company with each other and growing slowly into closer intimacy. Edith and her mother, Mrs. Shaw, were very encouraging of the match. They kept Margaret out of the way of other friends who might have eligible sons or brothers; and it was also agreed that she never seemed to take much pleasure in the society of any one but Henry, out of their own family.
'She has been very farouche with me for a long time; and is only just beginning to thaw a little from her Zenobia ways. She has the making of a Cleopatra in her, if only she were a little more pagan.' Henry had said to his sister-in-law, Edith just a few months ago.
Then, much to his extreme delight, Margaret had become a rich heiress when her godfather died and Henry was chosen to be her legal advisor. He had thus unusual opportunities of intimate intercourse with her, besides those that arose from the connection between the families.
From this time the clever and ambitious man bent all his powers to gaining Margaret. He loved her sweet beauty. He saw the latent sweep of her mind, which could easily (he thought) be led to embrace all the objects on which he had set his heart. He looked upon her fortune only as a part of the complete and superb character of herself and her position: yet he was fully aware of the rise which it would immediately enable him, the poor barrister, to take. He was glad to find that the present relationship between Margaret and himself, of client and legal adviser, was gradually superseding the recollection of that unlucky, mismanaged day at Helstone. She was always attentive when he was there to discuss matters involving her estate especially her properties in Milton…
'Hmph, that makes sense now' he thought to himself.
Margaret was only too willing to listen as long as he talked of Milton, though he had seen none of the people whom she more especially knew. He was always just too happy to see her animated that he would talk about whatever kept the sparkle in her eye. So much so that he seemed to exceed Margaret in his appreciation of the character of Milton and its inhabitants. Their energy, their power, their indomitable courage in struggling and fighting; their lurid vividness of existence, he feigned that it captivated and arrested his attention. He was never tired of talking about them because it held her interest. When other subjects palled upon her, and she gave but short answers to many questions, Henry Lennox found out that an enquiry as to some Darkshire peculiarity of character, called back the light into her eye, the glow into her cheek. So he would keep talking and just drone on and on telling her what she wanted to hear. It was always anything to do with Milton. Milton, Milton, Milton! It was always that God-forsaken city that she seemed to love so much!
Henry ran his hand over his face. If only she could have given the man who had once offered her his heart a second chance… But alas, she loved another.
'John Thornton wouldn't have to ask her twice,' Henry thought with a snort.
He was due to be in Harley Street by eleven. But the thought of being in the same room as Margaret and Mr. Thornton made him sick.
'That man!' Henry groaned.
Henry had spent three hours with Margaret yesterday morning. Eschewing some important legal meetings because he thought THIS was finally his opportunity! How she was learning to depend upon him! He had determined to offer to her again. He had even bought her a ring. Luckily he caught the clues before he made a fool of himself once more.
'Ha,' he sniggered, thinking to himself, 'I don't think Margaret even knows her own heart. I have beaten her to it.'
Out of nowhere, after seeing Mr. Thornton at Edith's dinner party, Margaret had decided that she wanted to help Marlborough Mills.
'And to think that I was the one who invited him! I thought it would please her. It sure pleased her all right. Dug my own grave with that one,' Henry laughed derisively.
Marlborough Mills had failed. Due to overscrupulousness on the part of the proprietor – that very same Mr. Thornton.
'He was far too principled,' thought Henry. He would not risk his money on that speculation. But to Margaret that was a virtue of the highest order and drew her utmost respect and adoration.
'G-damned lucky bloke!' Henry swore.
During her time in Milton Margaret had made friends with many of the working class. She knew several of those who worked at the mill and she did not want to see them lose their jobs. The closing of Marlborough Mills would have a negative effect on all of Milton. At least that was what she kept giving as her excuse.
'But that number, that blasted number! Eighteen thousand and fifty-seven pounds! It was everything! Why did she want to give him everything? Half as much would have more than suited the purpose. Or keep the fifty-seven pounds and just make it a nice round number. Still too round with three whole zeros when a mere two would suffice.' Henry tried to counsel her otherwise, 'But NO! Margaret insisted on emptying the entire bank account. What was she to live on? …She didn't care.' He sighed.
John Thornton - a failed Milton manufacturer. She wanted to give him everything. She wanted to give HIM everything. She wanted to give him EVERYTHING.
So that was it. All of Henry's hopes and dreams were dashed in that one realization: She wanted to give her money, her hand, her heart, her soul, her … well - EVERYTHING, to John Thornton, Master of Marlborough Mills.
She would never accept Henry's hand. He pulled the ring out of his waistcoat pocket and looked at it once more. She was in love with that man! That man who sat across from him at this very desk not three days ago to give up his lease. And Henry took pity on him and invited him to dinner. He tossed the ring in the back of his desk drawer and slammed it shut.
It was time to leave if he wanted to be there by eleven, but he was glued to his chair. He just couldn't do it. To sit in his brother's back drawing room and watch John Thornton experience his own epiphany… No! His presence would ruin the atmosphere anyway. Margaret had all the paperwork and could handle the meeting herself, even though she might not think so. Henry's head slumped down onto his desk. Margaret may not know her own heart but she would soon enough.
He expected to hear of her engagement by nightfall.