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A Dark Night's Work Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter XV

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He began to shake again: this idea of transportation, from its very mysteriousness, was more terrifying to him than death. He kept on saying plaintively, "Missy, you'll never let 'em send me to Botany Bay; I couldn't stand that."

"No, no!" said she. "You shall come out of this prison, and go home with me to East Chester; I promise you you shall. I promise you. I don't yet quite know how, but trust in my promise. Don't fret about Botany Bay. If you go there, I go too. I am so sure you will not go. And you know if you have done anything against the law in concealing that fatal night's work, I did too, and if you are to be punished, I will be punished too. But I feel sure it will be right; I mean, as right as anything can be, with the recollection of that time present to us, as it must always be." She almost spoke these last words to herself. They sat on, hand in hand for a few minutes more in silence.

"I thought you'd come to me. I knowed you were far away in foreign parts. But I used to pray to God. 'Dear Lord God!' I used to say, 'let me see her again.' I told the chaplain as I'd begin to pray for repentance, at after I'd done praying that I might see you once again: for it just seemed to take all my strength to say those words as I've named. And I thought as how God knew what was in my heart better than I could tell Him: how I was main and sorry for all as I'd ever done wrong; I allays were, at after it was done; but I thought as no one could know how bitter-keen I wanted to see you."

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Again they sank into silence. Ellinor felt as if she would fain be away and active in procuring his release; but she also perceived how precious her presence was to him; and she did not like to leave him a moment before the time allowed her. His voice had changed to a weak, piping old man's quaver, and between the times of his talking he seemed to relapse into a dreamy state; but through it all he held her hand tight, as though afraid that she would leave him.

So the hour elapsed, with no more spoken words than those above. From time to time Ellinor's tears dropped down upon her lap; she could not restrain them, though she scarce knew why she cried just then.

At length the turnkey said that the time allowed for the interview was ended. Ellinor spoke no word; but rose, and bent down and kissed the old man's forehead, saying -

"I shall come back to-morrow. God keep and comfort you!"

So almost without an articulate word from him in reply (he rose up, and stood on his shaking legs, as she bade him farewell, putting his hand to his head with the old habitual mark of respect), she went her way, swiftly out of the prison, swiftly back with Mr. Johnson to his house, scarcely patient or strong enough in her hurry to explain to him fully all that she meant to do. She only asked him a few absolutely requisite questions; and informed him of her intention to go straight to London to see Judge Corbet.

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A Dark Night's Work
Elizabeth Gaskell

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