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“Through cross to crown!—And though thy spirit’s lifeTrials untold assail with giant strength,Good cheer! good cheer! Soon ends the bitter strife,And thou shalt reign in peace with Christ at length.”Kosegarten. “Ay sooth, we feel too strong in weal, to need Thee on that road;But woe being come, the soul is dumb, that crieth not on ‘God.’”Mrs. Browning. That afternoon she walked swiftly to the Higgins’s house. Mary was looking out for her, with a half-distrustful face. Margaret smiled into her eyes to re-assure her. They passed quickly through the house-place, upstairs, and into the quiet presence of the dead. Then Margaret was glad that she had come. The face, so often weary with pain, so restless with troublous thoughts, had now the faint soft smile of eternal rest upon it. The slow tears gathered into Margaret’s eyes, but a deep calm entered into her soul. And that was death! It looked more peaceful than life. All beautiful scriptures came into her mind. “They rest from their labours.” “The weary are at rest.” “He giveth his beloved sleep.” Slowly, slowly Margaret turned away from the bed. Mary was humbly sobbing in the back-ground. They went downstairs without a word. Resting his hand upon the house-table, Nicholas Higgins stood in the midst of the floor; his great eyes startled open by the news he had heard, as he came along the court, from many busy tongues. His eyes were dry and fierce; studying the reality of her death; bringing himself to understand that her place should know her no more. For she had been sickly, dying so long, that he had persuaded himself she would not die; that she would “pull through.” Margaret felt as if she had no business to be there, familiarly acquainting herself with the surroundings of death, which he, the father, had only just learnt. There had been a pause of an instant on the steep crooked stair, when she first saw him; but now she tried to steal past his abstracted gaze, and to leave him in the solemn circle of his household misery. Mary sat down on the first chair she came to, and throwing her apron over her head, began to cry. The noise appeared to rouse him. He took sudden hold of Margaret’s arm, and held her till he could gather words to speak. His throat seemed dry; they came up thick, and choked, and hoarse: “Were yo’ with her? Did yo’ see her die?” “No!” replied Margaret, standing still with the utmost patience, now she found herself perceived. It was some time before he spoke again, but he kept his hold on her arm. “All men must die,” said he at last, with a strange sort of gravity, which first suggested to Margaret the idea that he had been drinking—not enough to intoxicate himself, but enough to make his thoughts bewildered. “But she were younger than me.” Still he pondered over the event, not looking at Margaret, though he grasped her tight. Suddenly, he looked up at her with a wild searching inquiry in his glance. “Yo’re sure and certain she’s dead—not in a dwam, a faint? she’s been so before, often.”
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Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

Renowned English novelist, biographer and short story writer

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