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  A Dark Night's Work Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter XVI

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"Is Judge Corbet at home? Can I see him?" she asked of the footman, who at length answered the door.

He looked at her curiously, and a little familiarly, before he replied,

"Why, yes! He's pretty sure to be at home at this time of day; but whether he'll see you is quite another thing."

"Would you be so good as to ask him? It is on very particular business."

"Can you give me a card? your name, perhaps, will do, if you have not a card. I say, Simmons" (to a lady's-maid crossing the hall), "is the judge up yet?"

"Oh, yes! he's in his dressing-room this half-hour. My lady is coming down directly. It is just breakfast-time."

"Can't you put it off and come again, a little later?" said he, turning once more to Ellinor--white Ellinor! trembling Ellinor!

"No! please let me come in. I will wait. I am sure Judge Corbet will see me, if you will tell him I am here. Miss Wilkins. He will know the name."

"Well, then; will you wait here till I have got breakfast in?" said the man, letting her into the hall, and pointing to the bench there, he took her, from her dress, to be a lady's-maid or governess, or at most a tradesman's daughter; and, besides, he was behindhand with all his preparations. She came in and sat down.

"You will tell him I am here," she said faintly.

"Oh, yes, never fear: I'll send up word, though I don't believe he'll come to you before breakfast."

He told a page, who ran upstairs, and, knocking at the judge's door, said that a Miss Jenkins wanted to speak to him.

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"Who?" asked the judge from the inside.

"Miss Jenkins. She said you would know the name, sir."

"Not I. Tell her to wait."

So Ellinor waited. Presently down the stairs, with slow deliberate dignity, came the handsome Lady Corbet, in her rustling silks and ample petticoats, carrying her fine boy, and followed by her majestic nurse. She was ill-pleased that any one should come and take up her husband's time when he was at home, and supposed to be enjoying domestic leisure; and her imperious, inconsiderate nature did not prompt her to any civility towards the gentle creature sitting down, weary and heart-sick, in her house. On the contrary, she looked her over as she slowly descended, till Ellinor shrank abashed from the steady gaze of the large black eyes. Then she, her baby and nurse, disappeared into the large dining-room, into which all the preparations for breakfast had been carried.

The next person to come down would be the judge. Ellinor instinctively put down her veil. She heard his quick decided step; she had known it well of old.

He gave one of his sharp, shrewd glances at the person sitting in the hall and waiting to speak to him, and his practised eye recognised the lady at once, in spite of her travel-worn dress.

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A Dark Night's Work
Elizabeth Gaskell

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