"Good afternoon and welcome." Hyle paused for a moment to let her greeting be felt and accepted the soft replies. She went on.
"We are here to honour the life of one who came to us, as many have before her, to help our community, and in doing so, change her life for the better, again as many of us have done before."
"Despite a less than warm welcome..." Hyle's eyes sought and found Hana Barret. who bowed her head in embarrassment "...Magrat overcame the hostility that a few of our community displayed.
She applied herself to her work and showed all of us that despite adversity, a strong character can find success."
"Magrat came to us from The Devils Own." Hyle said the words bluntly, deliberately. She paused as the ripple of sound died down. "Yet, we have to remember that Magrat was a drudge, a slave.
She was taken, aged seven, from her family and put to work, away from everything she knew into a life which was violent and savage."
Hyle scanned the crowd with an ice cool gaze, silencing any grumbles.
"How many of us can relate to that, whether we be human or clone? We live in a savage world."
"And yet! Magrat showed us all a fortitude, and a will to better herself, and our community, AND her own community.
How many remember her enthusiasm? How many remember her effervescence, her vitality?" Hyle paused again as nods and whispered yeses echoed. Her voice softened.
"And I also remember how proud I was.
And how proud, and happy, Magrat was when I presented her, on behalf of all of us, with an engraved stethoscope in recognition of her efforts in the short time she spent in Hope Springs."
Just then, the doors to the hall opened slowly, some heads turned, then a loud grumble spread across the room. Hyle paused her speech.
In the doorway stood an uneasy twelve-year-old boy and his father.
Evan Stanton looked petrified as some of the grumbling turned to growls. Hyle's eyes darted to Shadwell for an explanation.
"Undskyld, one moment!" Hyle called for calm, stepping down and closing to Shadwell, who whispered a few words to her.
Hyle quickly returned to the lectern and raised her had for calm, waiting patiently until she had the crowd's attention.
"It seems there have been some developments, most important of which being that young Evan has been exonerated of any involvement in Magrat's death." Hyle's voice was clear and authoritative.
"As many of us know, Evan became very close to Magrat." She paused.
"Now, I think we should all respect that and allow Evan to come forward and say goodbye to his friend. So please, let him come."
The noise faded into silence and a way parted to the front. Evan, still very apprehensive, but slightly more at ease, with his father's supporting hand on his shoulder made his way to the front.
With reddening eyes, Evan placed a single red rose onto the casket. Hyle suppressed the growing lump in her throat, almost croaking her words to the gathering.
"Thank you." She smiled at Evan, as tears rolled down his cheek. "Now let Evan and his father take their place at the front."
Arch lead his son a few paces back and took a place next to Winona Barrow, who hugged the boy and said a few quiet words to him. Evan managed a smile from his distressed face.
Hyle addressed the congregation once again.
"As I told, there have been some important revelations in the case. But this is neither the time or place to explain them. We are here to honour Magrat. All will become known in time."
As Hyle scanned the crowd, she noticed that behind everyone's attention, at the rear of the hall, Hana Barret and her brother Jonas making a quiet but hurried exit from the room.
Hyle wondered for a moment, then forced her mind to the task in hand. The Barret's withdrawal was puzzling, but right now she had more important things to do.
She retraced her words, reminding herself where she was in her speech and what she still needed to say.
Hyle resumed. "When I last spoke to Magrat, she told me she was the happiest she had ever felt, and how much she was looking forward to taking her new skills to help those at her home.
How much she wished to change things there. She would return to the Devil's Own camp a free person."
Hyle sniffed, her voice lowered. "But as we all know; it was not to be." She let her gaze rest on Magrat's casket for a moment.
"However, Magrat did show us that despite adversity, a common good is worth fighting for, and is achievable."
"It was Doctor Troy who suggested, and arranged for Magrat to come to us, as part of medical support, not only for Hope Springs but for her work in the camps around us.
And I gave her my full support,
because it is only by breaking down the divisions that exist between ourselves and the rest of the province that any real progress to a better civilisation can be made."
Hyle looked up and found the few faces in the crowd that she really meant to address.
"I know there are some among us who resist this change. Whose memories of Hope Spring's violent past cloud their eyes and cast their vision downwards.
And it is a clear fact that MOST of us here have suffered to a greater or lesser extent at the hands of the lawlessness that curses The Province.
But as we know, and in as much as our town has proved clearly in the last years. There IS a way forward, and it is a peaceful way. It is not an easy way, but it is OUR way."
Hyle looked out into the crowd, the murmurs, the nods. She gazed once again at the coffin.
"And, I think...... that Magrat showed us all something. She showed us that even from the lowest starting point, you can achieve your goals. She knew it, maybe she can show us all.
Her memory will stay with me as long as I live. As should stay with all of us.
If we remember her, then perhaps, even if her life was tragically cut short, at such a young age, Magrat's life will not have been wasted."
Hyle bowed her head to the casket in front of her then stepped back.
Slowly, in one or two quarters of the hall, the applause started, then grew. Hyle took her seat.
Later, as the sun set and the embers of the funeral pyre smouldered its last, Mayor Troy stood next to a sad Evan Stanton. She squeezed his hand. "Come on Evan, let's get you home."