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  A Dark Night's Work Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter XIV

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"Where now?" said the canon, as they approached the London Bridge station.

"To the Great Western," said she; "Hellingford is on that line, I see. But, please, now we must part."

"Then I may not go with you to Hellingford? At any rate, you will allow me to go with you to the railway station, and do my last office as courier in getting you your ticket and placing you in the carriage."

So they went together to the station, and learnt that no train was leaving for Hellingford for two hours. There was nothing for it but to go to the hotel close by, and pass away the time as best they could.

Ellinor called for her maid's accounts, and dismissed her. Some refreshment that the canon had ordered was eaten, and the table cleared. He began walking up and down the room, his arms folded, his eyes cast down. Every now and then he looked at the clock on the mantelpiece. When that showed that it only wanted a quarter of an hour to the time appointed for the train to start, he came up to Ellinor, who sat leaning her head upon her hand, her hand resting on the table.

"Miss Wilkins," he began--and there was something peculiar in his tone which startled Ellinor--"I am sure you will not scruple to apply to me if in any possible way I can help you in this sad trouble of yours?"

"No indeed I won't!" said Ellinor, gratefully, and putting out her hand as a token. He took it, and held it; she went on, a little more hastily than before: "You know you were so good as to say you would go at once and see Miss Monro, and tell her all you know, and that I will write to her as soon as I can."

"May I not ask for one line?" he continued, still holding her hand.

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"Certainly: so kind a friend as you shall hear all I can tell; that is, all I am at liberty to tell."

"A friend! Yes, I am a friend; and I will not urge any other claim just now. Perhaps--"

Ellinor could not affect to misunderstand him. His manner implied even more than his words.

"No!" she said, eagerly. "We are friends. That is it. I think we shall always be friends, though I will tell you now--something--this much--it is a sad secret. God help me! I am as guilty as poor Dixon, if, indeed, he is guilty--but he is innocent--indeed he is!"

"If he is no more guilty than you, I am sure he is! Let me be more than your friend, Ellinor--let me know all, and help you all that I can, with the right of an affianced husband."

"No, no!" said she, frightened both at what she had revealed, and his eager, warm, imploring manner. "That can never be. You do not know the disgrace that may be hanging over me."

"If that is all," said he, "I take my risk--if that is all--if you only fear that I may shrink from sharing any peril you may be exposed to."

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A Dark Night's Work
Elizabeth Gaskell

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