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A Dark Night's Work Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter XIV

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"And!" she repeated, quickly, sitting down, the better to hear the words that she knew were coming -

"He is condemned to death."


"The Saturday but one after the Judges left the town, I suppose--it's the usual time."

"Who tried him?"

"Judge Corbet; and, for a new judge, I must say I never knew one who got through his business so well. It was really as much as I could stand to hear him condemning the prisoner to death. Dixon was undoubtedly guilty, and he was as stubborn as could be--a sullen old fellow who would let no one help him through. I'm sure I did my best for him at Miss Monro's desire and for your sake. But he would furnish me with no particulars, help us to no evidence. I had the hardest work to keep him from confessing all before witnesses, who would have been bound to repeat it as evidence against him. Indeed, I never thought he would have pleaded 'Not Guilty.' I think it was only with a desire to justify himself in the eyes of some old Hamley acquaintances. Good God, Miss Wilkins! What's the matter? You're not fainting!" He rang the bell till the rope remained in his hands. "Here, Esther! Jerry! Whoever you are, come quick! Miss Wilkins has fainted! Water! Wine! Tell Mrs. Johnson to come here directly!"

Mrs. Johnson, a kind, motherly woman, who had been excluded from the "gentleman's dinner party," and had devoted her time to superintending the dinner her husband had ordered, came in answer to his call for assistance, and found Ellinor lying back in her chair white and senseless.

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"Bessy, Miss Wilkins has fainted; she has had a long journey, and is in a fidget about Dixon, the old fellow who was sentenced to be hung for that murder, you know. I can't stop here, I must go back to those men. You bring her round, and see her to bed. The blue room is empty since Horner left. She must stop here, and I'll see her in the morning. Take care of her, and keep her mind as easy as you can, will you, for she can do no good by fidgeting."

And, knowing that he left Ellinor in good hands, and with plenty of assistance about her, he returned to his friends.

Ellinor came to herself before long.

"It was very foolish of me, but I could not help it," said she, apologetically.

"No; to be sure not, dear. Here, drink this; it is some of Mr. Johnson's best port wine that he has sent out on purpose for you. Or would you rather have some white soup--or what? We've had everything you could think of for dinner, and you've only to ask and have. And then you must go to bed, my dear--Mr. Johnson says you must; and there's a well-aired room, for Mr. Horner only left us this morning."

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A Dark Night's Work
Elizabeth Gaskell

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