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A Dark Night's Work Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter XVI

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"Besides," said he, courteously, "one scarcely knows whether Miss Wilkins may not give the old man false hopes--whether she has not been excited to have false hopes herself; it might be a cruel kindness to let her see him, without more legal certainty as to what his sentence, or reprieve, is to be. By to-morrow morning, if I have properly understood her story, which was a little confused--"

"She is so dreadfully tired, poor creature," put in Miss Monro, who never could bear the shadow of a suspicion that Ellinor was not wisest, best, in all relations and situations of life.

Mr. Johnson went on, with a deprecatory bow: "Well, then--it really is the only course open to her besides--persuade her to rest for this evening. By to-morrow morning I will have obtained the sheriff's leave, and he will most likely have heard from London."

"Thank you! I believe that will be best."

"It is the only course," said he.

When Miss Monro returned to the bedroom, Ellinor was in a heavy feverish slumber; so feverish and so uneasy did she appear, that, after the hesitation of a moment or two, Miss Monro had no scruple in wakening her.

But she did not appear to understand the answer to her request; she did not seem even to remember that she had made any request.

The journey to England, the misery, the surprises, had been too much for her. The morrow morning came, bringing the formal free pardon for Abraham Dixon. The sheriff's order for her admission to see the old man lay awaiting her wish to use it; but she knew nothing of all this.

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For days, nay weeks, she hovered between life and death, tended, as of old, by Miss Monro, while good Mrs. Johnson was ever willing to assist.

One summer evening in early June she wakened into memory, Miss Monro heard the faint piping voice, as she kept her watch by the bedside.

"Where is Dixon?" asked she.

"At the canon's house at Bromham." This was the name of Dr. Livingstone's county parish.


"We thought it better to get him into country air and fresh scenes at once."

"How is he?"

"Much better. Get strong, and he shall come to see you."

"You are sure all is right?" said Ellinor.

"Sure, my dear. All is quite right."

Then Ellinor went to sleep again out of very weakness and weariness.

From that time she recovered pretty steadily. Her great desire was to return to East Chester as soon as possible. The associations of grief, anxiety, and coming illness, connected with Hellingford, made her wish to be once again in the solemn, quiet, sunny close of East Chester.

Canon Livingstone came over to assist Miss Monro in managing the journey with her invalid. But he did not intrude himself upon Ellinor, any more than he had done in coming from home.

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A Dark Night's Work
Elizabeth Gaskell

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