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A Dark Night's Work Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter VIII

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They were sometimes sauntering along in the lovely summer twilight, now resting on some grassy hedge-row bank, or standing still, looking at the great barges, with their crimson sails, lazily floating down the river, making ripples on the glassy opal surface of the water. They did not talk very much; Ellinor seemed disinclined for the exertion; and her lover was thinking over Mr. Wilkins's behaviour, with some surprise and distaste of the habit so evidently growing upon him.

They came home, looking serious and tired: yet they could not account for their fatigue by the length of their walk, and Miss Monro, forgetting Autolycus's song, kept fidgeting about Ellinor, and wondering how it was she looked so pale, if she had only been as far as the Ash Meadow. To escape from this wonder, Ellinor went early to bed. Mr. Wilkins was gone, no one knew where, and Ralph and Miss Monro were left to a half-hour's tete-a-tete. He thought he could easily account for Ellinor's languor, if, indeed, she had perceived as much as he had done of her father's state, when they had come into the library after dinner. But there were many details which he was anxious to hear from a comparatively indifferent person, and as soon as he could, he passed on from the conversation about Ellinor's health, to inquiries as to the whole affair of Mr. Dunster's disappearance.

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Next to her anxiety about Ellinor, Miss Monro liked to dilate on the mystery connected with Mr. Dunster's flight; for that was the word she employed without hesitation, as she gave him the account of the event universally received and believed in by the people of Hamley. How Mr. Dunster had never been liked by any one; how everybody remembered that he could never look them straight in the face; how he always seemed to be hiding something that he did not want to have known; how he had drawn a large sum (exact quantity unknown) out of the county bank only the day before he left Hamley, doubtless in preparation for his escape; how some one had told Mr. Wilkins he had seen a man just like Dunster lurking about the docks at Liverpool, about two days after he had left his lodgings, but that this some one, being in a hurry, had not cared to stop and speak to the man; how that the affairs in the office were discovered to be in such a sad state that it was no wonder that Mr. Dunster had absconded--he that had been so trusted by poor dear Mr. Wilkins. Money gone no one knew how or where.

"But has he no friends who can explain his proceedings, and account for the missing money, in some way?" asked Mr. Corbet.

"No, none. Mr. Wilkins has written everywhere, right and left, I believe. I know he had a letter from Mr. Dunster's nearest relation- -a tradesman in the City--a cousin, I think, and he could give no information in any way. He knew that about ten years ago Mr. Dunster had had a great fancy for going to America, and had read a great many travels--all just what a man would do before going off to a country."

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A Dark Night's Work
Elizabeth Gaskell

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