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A Dark Night's Work Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter VIII

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"Ten years is a long time beforehand," said Mr. Corbet, half smiling; "shows malice prepense with a vengeance." But then, turning grave, he said: "Did he leave Hamley in debt?"

"No; I never heard of that," said Miss Monro, rather unwillingly, for she considered it as a piece of loyalty to the Wilkinses, whom Mr. Dunster had injured (as she thought) to blacken his character as much as was consistent with any degree of truth.

"It is a strange story," said Mr. Corbet, musing.

"Not at all," she replied, quickly; "I am sure, if you had seen the man, with one or two side-locks of hair combed over his baldness, as if he were ashamed of it, and his eyes that never looked at you, and his way of eating with his knife when he thought he was not observed- -oh, and numbers of things!--you would not think it strange."

Mr. Corbet smiled.

"I only meant that he seems to have had no extravagant or vicious habits which would account for his embezzlement of the money that is missing--but, to be sure, money in itself is a temptation--only he, being a partner, was in a fair way of making it without risk to himself. Has Mr. Wilkins taken any steps to have him arrested in America? He might easily do that."

"Oh, my dear Mr. Ralph, you don't know our good Mr. Wilkins! He would rather bear the loss, I am sure, and all this trouble and care which it has brought upon him, than be revenged upon Mr. Dunster."

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"Revenged! What nonsense! It is simple justice--justice to himself and to others--to see that villainy is so sufficiently punished as to deter others from entering upon such courses. But I have little doubt Mr. Wilkins has taken the right steps; he is not the man to sit down quietly under such a loss."

"No, indeed! he had him advertised in the Times and in the county papers, and offered a reward of twenty pounds for information concerning him."

"Twenty pounds was too little."

"So I said. I told Ellinor that I would give twenty pounds myself to have him apprehended, and she, poor darling! fell a-trembling, and said, 'I would give all I have--I would give my life.' And then she was in such distress, and sobbed so, I promised her I would never name it to her again."

"Poor child--poor child! she wants change of scene. Her nerves have been sadly shaken by her illness."

The next day was Sunday; Ellinor was to go to church for the first time since her illness. Her father had decided it for her, or else she would fain have stayed away--she would hardly acknowledge why, even to herself, but it seemed to her as if the very words and presence of God must there search her and find her out.

She went early, leaning on the arm of her lover, and trying to forget the past in the present. They walked slowly along between the rows of waving golden corn ripe for the harvest. Mr. Corbet gathered blue and scarlet flowers, and made up a little rustic nosegay for her. She took and stuck it in her girdle, smiling faintly as she did so.

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A Dark Night's Work
Elizabeth Gaskell

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