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A Dark Night's Work Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter III

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There was a piece of ground surrounding the flower-garden, which was not shrubbery, nor wood, nor kitchen garden--only a grassy bit, out of which a group of old forest trees sprang. Their roots were heaved above ground; their leaves fell in autumn so profusely that the turf was ragged and bare in spring; but, to make up for this, there never was such a place for snowdrops.

The roots of these old trees were Ellinor's favourite play-place; this space between these two was her doll's kitchen, that its drawing-room, and so on. Mr. Corbet rather despised her contrivances for doll's furniture, so she had not often brought him here; but Dixon delighted in them, and contrived and planned with the eagerness of six years old rather than forty. To-night Ellinor went to this place, and there were all a new collection of ornaments for Miss Dolly's sitting-room made out of fir-bobs, in the prettiest and most ingenious way. She knew it was Dixon's doing and rushed off in search of him to thank him.

"What's the matter with my pretty?" asked Dixon, as soon as the pleasant excitement of thanking and being thanked was over, and he had leisure to look at her tear-stained face.

"Oh, I don't know! Never mind," said she, reddening.

Dixon was silent for a minute or two, while she tried to turn off his attention by her hurried prattle.

"There's no trouble afoot that I can mend?" asked he, in a minute or two.

"Oh, no! It's really nothing--nothing at all," said she. "It's only that Mr. Corbet went away without saying good-bye to me, that's all." And she looked as if she should have liked to cry again.

"That was not manners," said Dixon, decisively.

"But it was my fault," replied Ellinor, pleading against the condemnation.

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Dixon looked at her pretty sharply from under his ragged bushy eyebrows.

"He had been giving me a lecture, and saying I didn't do what his sisters did--just as if I were to be always trying to be like somebody else--and I was cross and ran away."

"Then it was Missy who wouldn't say good-bye. That was not manners in Missy."

"But, Dixon, I don't like being lectured!"

"I reckon you don't get much of it. But, indeed, my pretty, I daresay Mr. Corbet was in the right; for, you see, master is busy, and Miss Monro is so dreadful learned, and your poor mother is dead and gone, and you have no one to teach you how young ladies go on; and by all accounts Mr. Corbet comes of a good family. I've heard say his father had the best stud-farm in all Shropshire, and spared no money upon it; and the young ladies his sisters will have been taught the best of manners; it might be well for my pretty to hear how they go on."

"You dear old Dixon, you don't know anything about my lecture, and I'm not going to tell you. Only I daresay Mr. Corbet might be a little bit right, though I'm sure he was a great deal wrong."

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A Dark Night's Work
Elizabeth Gaskell

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