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The Project Gutenberg eBook, Lizzie Leigh, by Elizabeth Gaskell
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
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Title: Lizzie Leigh
Author: Elizabeth Gaskell
Release Date: May 16, 2005 [eBook #2521]
Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK LIZZIE LEIGH***
Transcribed from the 1896 Smith, Elder and Co. edition by David Price,
by Elizabeth Gaskell
When Death is present in a household on a Christmas Day, the very
contrast between the time as it now is, and the day as it has often been,
gives a poignancy to sorrow--a more utter blankness to the desolation.
James Leigh died just as the far-away bells of Rochdale Church were
ringing for morning service on Christmas Day, 1836. A few minutes before
his death, he opened his already glazing eyes, and made a sign to his
wife, by the faint motion of his lips, that he had yet something to say.
She stooped close down, and caught the broken whisper, "I forgive her,
Annie! May God forgive me!"
"Oh, my love, my dear! only get well, and I will never cease showing my
thanks for those words. May God in heaven bless thee for saying them.
Thou'rt not so restless, my lad! may be--Oh, God!"
For even while she spoke he died.
They had been two-and-twenty years man and wife; for nineteen of those
years their life had been as calm and happy as the most perfect
uprightness on the one side, and the most complete confidence and loving
submission on the other, could make it. Milton's famous line might have
been framed and hung up as the rule of their married life, for he was
truly the interpreter, who stood between God and her; she would have
considered herself wicked if she had ever dared even to think him
austere, though as certainly as he was an upright man, so surely was he
hard, stern, and inflexible. But for three years the moan and the murmur
had never been out of her heart; she had rebelled against her husband as
against a tyrant, with a hidden, sullen rebellion, which tore up the old
landmarks of wifely duty and affection, and poisoned the fountains whence
gentlest love and reverence had once been for ever springing.
But those last blessed words replaced him on his throne in her heart, and
called out penitent anguish for all the bitter estrangement of later
years. It was this which made her refuse all the entreaties of her sons,
that she would see the kind-hearted neighbours, who called on their way
from church, to sympathize and condole. No! she would stay with the dead
husband that had spoken tenderly at last, if for three years he had kept
silence; who knew but what, if she had only been more gentle and less
angrily reserved he might have relented earlier--and in time?