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A Dark Night's Work Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter XVI

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Elmer answered:

"I came to tell you, what I suppose may be told to any judge, in confidence and full reliance on his secrecy, that Abraham Dixon was not the murderer." She stopped short, and choked a little.

The judge looked sharply at her.

"Then you know who was?" said he.

"Yes," she replied, with a low, steady voice, looking him full in the face, with sad, solemn eyes.

The truth flashed into his mind. He shaded his face, and did not speak for a minute or two. Then he said, not looking up, a little hoarsely, "This, then, was the shame you told me of long ago?"

"Yes," said she.

Both sat quite still; quite silent for some time. Through the silence a sharp, clear voice was heard speaking through the folding-doors. "Take the kedgeree down, and tell the cook to keep it hot for the judge. It is so tiresome people coming on business here, as if the judge had not his proper hours for being at chambers."

He got up hastily, and went into the dining-room; but he had audibly some difficulty in curbing his wife's irritation.

When he came back, Ellinor said:

"I am afraid I ought not to have come here now."

"Oh! it's all nonsense!" said he, in a tone of annoyance. "You've done quite right." He seated himself where he had been before; and again half covered his face with his hand.

"And Dixon knew of this. I believe I must put the fact plainly--to you--your father was the guilty person? he murdered Dunster?"

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"Yes. If you call it murder. It was done by a blow, in the heat of passion. No one can ever tell how Dunster always irritated papa," said Ellinor, in a stupid, heavy way; and then she sighed.

"How do you know this?" There was a kind of tender reluctance in the judge's voice, as he put all these questions. Ellinor had made up her mind beforehand that something like them must be asked, and must also be answered; but she spoke like a sleep-walker.

"I came into papa's room just after he had struck Mr. Dunster the blow. He was lying insensible, as we thought--dead, as he really was."

"What was Dixon's part in it? He must have known a good deal about it. And the horse-lancet that was found with his name upon it?"

"Papa went to wake Dixon, and he brought his fleam--I suppose to try and bleed him. I have said enough, have I not? I seem so confused. But I will answer any question to make it appear that Dixon is innocent."

The judge had been noting all down. He sat still now without replying to her. Then he wrote rapidly, referring to his previous paper, from time to time. In five minutes or so he read the facts which Ellinor had stated, as he now arranged them, in a legal and connected form. He just asked her one or two trivial questions as he did so. Then he read it over to her, and asked her to sign it. She took up the pen, and held it, hesitating.

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A Dark Night's Work
Elizabeth Gaskell

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