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  A Dark Night's Work Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter VIII

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Still youth prevailed over all. Ellinor got well, as I have said, even when she would fain have died. And the afternoon came when she left her room. Miss Monro would gladly have made a festival of her recovery, and have had her conveyed into the unused drawing-room. But Ellinor begged that she might be taken into the library--into the school-room--anywhere (thought she) not looking on the side of the house on the flower-garden, which she had felt in all her illness as a ghastly pressure lying within sight of those very windows, through which the morning sun streamed right upon her bed--like the accusing angel, bringing all hidden things to light.

And when Ellinor was better still, when the Bath-chair had been sent up for her use, by some kindly old maid, out of Hamley, she still petitioned that it might be kept on the lawn or town side of the house, away from the flower-garden.

One day she almost screamed, when, as she was going to the front door, she saw Dixon standing ready to draw her, instead of Fletcher the servant who usually went. But she checked all demonstration of feeling; although it was the first time she had seen him since he and she and one more had worked their hearts out in hard bodily labour.

He looked so stern and ill! Cross, too, which she had never seen him before.

As soon as they were out of immediate sight of the windows, she asked him to stop, forcing herself to speak to him.

"Dixon, you look very poorly," she said, trembling as she spoke.

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"Ay!" said he. "We didn't think much of it at the time, did we, Miss Nelly? But it'll be the death on us, I'm thinking. It has aged me above a bit. All my fifty years afore were but as a forenoon of child's play to that night. Measter, too--I could a-bear a good deal, but measter cuts through the stable-yard, and past me, wi'out a word, as if I was poison, or a stinking foumart. It's that as is worst, Miss Nelly, it is."

And the poor man brushed some tears from his eyes with the back of his withered, furrowed hand. Ellinor caught the infection, and cried outright, sobbed like a child, even while she held out her little white thin hand to his grasp. For as soon as he saw her emotion, he was penitent for what he had said.

"Don't now--don't," was all he could think of to say.

"Dixon!" said she at length, "you must not mind it. You must try not to mind it. I see he does not like to be reminded of that, even by seeing me. He tries never to be alone with me. My poor old Dixon, it has spoilt my life for me; for I don't think he loves me any more."

She sobbed as if her heart would break; and now it was Dixon's turn to be comforter.

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A Dark Night's Work
Elizabeth Gaskell

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