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A Dark Night's Work Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter IX

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Ellinor sat silently gazing out upon the meadows, but seeing nothing. Then she put her hand into his. "I quite trust you, Ralph. I was wrong to doubt. I am afraid I have grown fanciful and silly."

He was rather put to it for the right words, for she had precisely divined the dim thought that had overshadowed his mind when she had looked so intently at him. But he caressed her, and reassured her with fond words, as incoherent as lovers' words generally are.

By-and-by they sauntered homewards. When they reached the house, Ellinor left him, and flew up to see how her father was. When Ralph went into his own room he was vexed with himself, both for what he had said and for what he had not said. His mental look-out was not satisfactory.

Neither he nor Mr. Wilkins was in good humour with the world in general at dinner-time, and it needs little in such cases to condense and turn the lowering tempers into one particular direction. As long as Ellinor and Miss Monro stayed in the dining-room, a sort of moody peace had been kept up, the ladies talking incessantly to each other about the trivial nothings of their daily life, with an instinctive consciousness that if they did not chatter on, something would be said by one of the gentlemen which would be distasteful to the other.

As soon as Ralph had shut the door behind them, Mr. Wilkins went to the sideboard, and took out a bottle which had not previously made its appearance.

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"Have a little cognac?" he asked, with an assumption of carelessness, as he poured out a wine-glassful. "It's a capital thing for the headache; and this nasty lowering weather has given me a racking headache all day."

"I am sorry for it," said Ralph, "for I wanted particularly to speak to you about business--about my marriage, in fact."

"Well! speak away, I'm as clear-headed as any man, if that's what you mean."

Ralph bowed, a little contemptuously.

"What I wanted to say was, that I am anxious to have all things arranged for my marriage in August. Ellinor is so much better now; in fact, so strong, that I think we may reckon upon her standing the change to a London life pretty well."

Mr. Wilkins stared at him rather blankly, but did not immediately speak.

"Of course I may have the deeds drawn up in which, as by previous arrangement, you advance a certain portion of Ellinor's fortune for the purposes therein to be assigned; as we settled last year when I hoped to have been married in August?"

A thought flitted through Mr. Wilkins's confused brain that he should find it impossible to produce the thousands required without having recourse to the money lenders, who were already making difficulties, and charging him usurious interest for the advances they had lately made; and he unwisely tried to obtain a diminution in the sum he had originally proposed to give Ellinor. "Unwisely," because he might have read Ralph's character better than to suppose he would easily consent to any diminution without good and sufficient reason being given; or without some promise of compensating advantages in the future for the present sacrifice asked from him. But perhaps Mr. Wilkins, dulled as he was by wine thought he could allege a good and sufficient reason, for he said:

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A Dark Night's Work
Elizabeth Gaskell

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