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A Dark Night's Work Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter VII

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"I have travelled all day. I heard she was ill--was dying. May I just have one more look at her? I will not speak; I will hardly breathe. Only let me see her once again!"

"I beg your pardon, sir, but I don't know who you are; and if you mean Miss Wilkins, by 'her,' she is very ill, but we hope not dying. She was very ill, indeed, yesterday; very dangerously ill, I may say, but she is having a good sleep, in consequence of a soporific medicine, and we are really beginning to hope--"

But just here Miss Monro's hand was taken, and, to her infinite surprise, was kissed before she could remember how improper such behaviour was.

"God bless you, madam, for saying so. But if she sleeps, will you let me see her? it can do no harm, for I will tread as if on egg shells; and I have come so far--if I might just look on her sweet face. Pray, madam, let me just have one sight of her. I will not ask for more."

But he did ask for more after he had had his wish. He stole upstairs after Miss Monro, who looked round reproachfully at him if even a nightingale sang, or an owl hooted in the trees outside the open windows, yet who paused to say herself, outside Mr. Wilkins's chamber door,

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"Her father's room; he has not been in bed for six nights, till tonight; pray do not make a noise to waken him." And on into the deep stillness of the hushed room, where one clear ray of hidden lamplight shot athwart the door, where a watcher, breathing softly, sat beside the bed--where Ellinor's dark head lay motionless on the white pillow, her face almost as white, her form almost as still. You might have heard a pin fall. After a while he moved to withdraw. Miss Monro, jealous of every sound, followed him, with steps all the more heavy because they were taken with so much care, down the stairs, back into the drawing-room. By the bed-candle flaring in the draught, she saw that there was the glittering mark of wet tears on his cheek; and she felt, as she said afterwards, "sorry for the young man." And yet she urged him to go, for she knew that she might be wanted upstairs. He took her hand, and wrung it hard.

"Thank you. She looked so changed--oh! she looked as though she were dead. You will write--Herbert Livingstone, Langham Vicarage, Yorkshire; you will promise me to write. If I could do anything for her, but I can but pray. Oh, my darling; my darling! and I have no right to be with her."

"Go away, there's a good young man," said Miss Monro, all the more pressing to hurry him out by the front door, because she was afraid of his emotion overmastering him, and making him noisy in his demonstrations. "Yes, I will write; I will write, never fear!" and she bolted the door behind him, and was thankful.

Two minutes afterwards there was a low tap; she undid the fastenings, and there he stood, pale in the moonlight.

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A Dark Night's Work
Elizabeth Gaskell

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