Ruth is another novel by Elizabeth Gaskell (author of North and South, Wives and Daughters, and Cranford) which I read on the recommendation of another Gaskell fan over on the AO Forum. The ending was a bit disappointing to me, but the novel itself was a powerful tale of sin, its consequences and redemption.
" 'The world is not everything, Ruth; nor is the want of men's good opinion and esteem the highest need which man has. Teach Leonard this. You would not wish his life to be one summer's day. You dared not make it so, if you had the power. Teach him to bid a noble, Christian welcome to the trials which God sends – and this is one of them. Teach him not to look on a life of struggle, and perhaps of disappointment and incompleteness, as a sad and mournful end, but as the means permitted to the heroes and warriors in the army of Christ, by which to show their faithful following. Tell him of the hard and thorny path which was trodden once by the bleeding feet of One. Ruth! Think of the Saviour's life and cruel death, and of His divine faithfulness. Oh, Ruth!' exclaimed he, 'when I look and see what you may be – what you must be to that boy, I cannot think how you could be coward enough, for a moment, to shrink from your work! But we have all been cowards hitherto,' he added, in bitter self-accusation. 'God help us be so no longer!'"
~Elizabeth Gaskell, Ruth