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Half a Life-Time Ago by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
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by Elizabeth Gaskell


Half a life-time ago, there lived in one of the Westmoreland dales a
single woman, of the name of Susan Dixon. She was owner of the small
farm-house where she resided, and of some thirty or forty acres of
land by which it was surrounded. She had also an hereditary right to
a sheep-walk, extending to the wild fells that overhang Blea Tarn.
In the language of the country she was a Stateswoman. Her house is
yet to be seen on the Oxenfell road, between Skelwith and Coniston.
You go along a moorland track, made by the carts that occasionally
came for turf from the Oxenfell. A brook babbles and brattles by the
wayside, giving you a sense of companionship, which relieves the deep
solitude in which this way is usually traversed. Some miles on this
side of Coniston there is a farmstead--a gray stone house, and a
square of farm-buildings surrounding a green space of rough turf, in
the midst of which stands a mighty, funereal umbrageous yew, making a
solemn shadow, as of death, in the very heart and centre of the light
and heat of the brightest summer day. On the side away from the
house, this yard slopes down to a dark-brown pool, which is supplied
with fresh water from the overflowings of a stone cistern, into which
some rivulet of the brook before-mentioned continually and
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