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A Dark Night's Work Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter VII

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Ellinor was awakened by a rapping at her door: it was her maid.

She was fully aroused in a moment, for she had fallen asleep with one clearly defined plan in her mind, only one, for all thoughts and cares having no relation to the terrible event were as though they had never been. All her purpose was to shield her father from suspicion. And to do this she must control herself--heart, mind, and body must be ruled to this one end.

So she said to Mason:

"Let me lie half an hour longer; and beg Miss Monro not to wait breakfast for me; but in half an hour bring me up a cup of strong tea, for I have a bad headache."

Mason went away. Ellinor sprang up; rapidly undressed herself, and got into bed again, so that when her maid returned with her breakfast, there was no appearance of the night having been passed in any unusual manner.

"How ill you do look, miss!" said Mason. "I am sure you had better not get up yet."

Ellinor longed to ask if her father had yet shown himself; but this question--so natural at any other time--seemed to her so suspicious under the circumstances, that she could not bring her lips to frame it. At any rate, she must get up and struggle to make the day like all other days. So she rose, confessing that she did not feel very well, but trying to make light of it, and when she could think of anything but the one awe, to say a trivial sentence or two. But she could not recollect how she behaved in general, for her life hitherto had been simple, and led without any consciousness of effect.

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Before she was dressed, a message came up to say that Mr. Livingstone was in the drawing-room.

Mr. Livingstone! He belonged to the old life of yesterday! The billows of the night had swept over his mark on the sands of her memory; and it was only by a strong effort that she could remember who he was--what he wanted. She sent Mason down to inquire from the servant who admitted him whom it was that he had asked for.

"He asked for master first. But master has not rung for his water yet, so James told him he was not up. Then he took thought for a while, and asked could he speak to you, he would wait if you were not at liberty but that he wished particular to see either master, or you. So James asked him to sit down in the drawing-room, and he would let you know."

"I must go," thought Ellinor. "I will send him away directly; to come, thinking of marriage to a house like this--to-day, too!"

And she went down hastily, and in a hard unsparing mood towards a man, whose affection for her she thought was like a gourd, grown up in a night, and of no account, but as a piece of foolish, boyish excitement.

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A Dark Night's Work
Elizabeth Gaskell

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