A RAY OF SUNSHINE.by@elizabethgaskell


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“Some wishes crossed my mind and dimly cheered it,And one or two poor melancholy pleasures,Each in the pale unwarming light of hope,Silvering its flimsy wing, flew silent by—Moths in the moonbeam!”Coleridge. The next morning brought Margaret a letter from Edith. It was affectionate and inconsequent like the writer. But the affection was charming to Margaret’s own affectionate nature; and she had grown up with the inconsequence, so she did not perceive it. It was as follows:— “Oh, Margaret, it is worth a journey from England to see my boy! He is a superb little fellow, especially in his caps, and most especially in the one you sent him, you good, dainty-fingered, persevering little lady! Having made all the mothers here envious, I want to show him to somebody new, and hear a fresh set of admiring expressions; perhaps, that’s all the reason; perhaps it is not—nay, possibly, there is just a little cousinly love mixed with it; but I do want you so much to come here, Margaret! I’m sure it would be the very best thing for Aunt Hale’s health; everybody here is young and well, and our skies are always blue, and our sun always shines, and the band plays deliciously from morning till night; and, to come back to the burden of my ditty, my baby always smiles. I am constantly wanting you to draw him from me, Margaret. It does not signify what he is doing; that very thing is prettiest, gracefullest, best. I think I love him a great deal better than my husband, who is getting stout, and grumpy—what he calls ‘busy.’ No! he is not. He has just come in with news of such a charming pic-nic, given by the officers of the Hazard, at anchor in the bay below. Because he has brought in such a pleasant piece of news, I retract all I said just now. Did not somebody burn his hand for having said or done something he was sorry for? Well, I can’t burn mine, because it would hurt me, and the scar would be ugly; but I’ll retract all I said as fast as I can. Cosmo is quite as great a darling as baby, and not a bit stout, and as ungrumpy as ever husband was; only, sometimes he is very, very busy. I may say that without love—wifely duty—- where was I?—I had something very particular to say, I know, once. Oh, it is this—Dearest Margaret!—you must come and see me; it would do Aunt Hale good, as I said before. Get the doctor to order it for her. Tell him that it’s the smoke of Milton that does her harm. I have no doubt it is that, really. Three months (you must not come for less) of this delicious climate—all sunshine, and grapes as common as blackberries, would quite cure her. I don’t ask my uncle”—(Here the letter became more constrained, and better written. Mr. Hale was in the corner, like a naughty child, for having given up his living.)—“because, I dare say, he disapproves of war, soldiers, and bands of music; at least, I know that many Dissenters are members of the Peace Society, and I am afraid he would not like to come; but, if he would, dear, pray say that Cosmo and I will do our best to make him happy; and I’ll hide up Cosmo’s red coat and sword, and make the band play all sorts of grave, solemn things; or, if they do play pomps and vanities, it shall be in double slow time. Dear Margaret, if he would like to accompany you and Aunt Hale, we will try and make it pleasant, though I’m rather afraid of any one who has done anything for conscience’ sake. You never did, I hope. Tell Aunt Hale not to bring any warm clothes, though I’m afraid it will be late in the year before you can come. But you have no idea of the heat here! I tried to wear my great beauty Indian shawl at a pic-nic. I kept myself up with proverbs as long as I could; ‘Pride must abide,’—and such wholesome pieces of pith; but it was no use. I was like mamma’s little dog Tiny with an elephant’s trappings on; smothered, hidden, killed with my finery; so I made it into a capital carpet for us all to sit down upon. Here’s this boy of mine, Margaret—if you don’t pack up your things as soon as you get this letter, and come straight off to see him, I shall think you’re descended from King Herod!”
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Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

Renowned English novelist, biographer and short story writer

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