Page:Gaskell - North and South, vol. I, 1855.djvu/217

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CHAPTER XVII.

WHAT IS A STRIKE?

"There are briars besetting every path, Which call for patient care ; There is a cross in every lotj And an earnest need for prayer." Anon.

Margaret went out heavily and unwillingly enough. But the length of a street — yes, the air of a Milton Street — cheered her young blood before she reached her first turning. Her step grew lighter, her lip redder. She began to take notice, instead of having her thoughts turned so exclusively inward. She saw unusual loiterers in the streets : men with their hands in their pockets sauntering along ; loud- laughing and loud-spoken girls clustered together, apparently excited to high spirits, and a boisterous independence of temper and behaviour. The more ill-looking of the men — the discreditable minority — hung about on the steps of the beer-houses and gin- shops, smoking, and commenting pretty freely on every passer-by. Margaret disliked the prospect of the long walk through these streets, before she came to the fields which she had planned to reach. In- stead, she would go and see Bessy Higgins. It would not be so refreshing as a quiet country walk,