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A Dark Night's Work Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter XII

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These were simple enough; certain legal forms to be gone through, any selection from books or furniture to be made, and the rest to be sold by auction as speedily as convenient, as the successor to the living might wish to have repairs and alterations effected in the old parsonage. For some days Ellinor employed herself in business in the house, never going out except to church. Miss Monro, on the contrary, strolled about everywhere, noticing all the alterations in place and people, which were never improvements in her opinion. Ellinor had plenty of callers (her tenants, Mr. and Mrs. Osbaldistone among others), but, excepting in rare cases--most of them belonged to humble life--she declined to see every one, as she had business enough on her hands: sixteen years makes a great difference in any set of people. The old acquaintances of her father in his better days were almost all dead or removed; there were one or two remaining, and these Ellinor received; one or two more, old and infirm, confined to their houses, she planned to call upon before leaving Hamley. Every evening, when Dixon had done his work at Mr. Osbaldistone's, he came up to the Parsonage, ostensibly to help her in moving or packing books, but really because these two clung to each other--were bound to each other by a bond never to be spoken about. It was understood between them that once before Ellinor left she should go and see the old place, Ford Bank. Not to go into the house, though Mr. and Mrs. Osbaldistone had begged her to name her own time for revisiting it when they and their family would be absent, but to see all the gardens and grounds once more; a solemn, miserable visit, which, because of the very misery it involved, appeared to Ellinor to be an imperative duty.

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Dixon and she talked together as she sat making a catalogue one evening in the old low-browed library; the casement windows were open into the garden, and the May showers had brought out the scents of the new-leaved sweetbriar bush just below. Beyond the garden hedge the grassy meadows sloped away down to the liver; the Parsonage was so much raised that, sitting in the house, you could see over the boundary hedge. Men with instruments were busy in the meadow. Ellinor, pausing in her work, asked Dixon what they were doing.

"Them's the people for the new railway," said he. "Nought would satisfy the Hamley folk but to have a railway all to themselves-- coaches isn't good enough now-a-days."

He spoke with a tone of personal offence natural to a man who had passed all his life among horses, and considered railway-engines as their despicable rivals, conquering only by stratagem.

By-and-by Ellinor passed on to a subject the consideration of which she had repeatedly urged upon Dixon, and entreated him to come and form one of their household at East Chester. He was growing old, she thought older even in looks and feelings than in years, and she would make him happy and comfortable in his declining years if he would but come and pass them under her care. The addition which Mr. Ness's bequest made to her income would enable her to do not only this, but to relieve Miss Monro of her occupation of teaching; which, at the years she had arrived at, was becoming burdensome. When she proposed the removal to Dixon he shook his head.

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A Dark Night's Work
Elizabeth Gaskell

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