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A Dark Night's Work Elizabeth Gaskell

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Meanwhile she went on living at Ford Bank, quite unconscious of the state of her father's affairs, but sunk into a deep, plaintive melancholy, which affected her looks and the tones of her voice in such a manner as to distress Miss Monro exceedingly. It was not that the good lady did not quite acknowledge the great cause her pupil had for grieving--deserted by her lover, her father dead--but that she could not bear the outward signs of how much these sorrows had told on Ellinor. Her love for the poor girl was infinitely distressed by seeing the daily wasting away, the constant heavy depression of spirits, and she grew impatient of the continual pain of sympathy. If Miss Monro could have done something to relieve Ellinor of her woe, she would have been less inclined to scold her for giving way to it.

The time came when Miss Monro could act; and after that, there was no more irritation on her part. When all hope of Ellinor's having anything beyond the house and grounds of Ford Bank was gone; when it was proved that all the legacies bequeathed by Mr. Wilkins not one farthing could ever be paid; when it came to be a question how far the beautiful pictures and other objects of art in the house were not legally the property of unsatisfied creditors, the state of her father's affairs was communicated to Ellinor as delicately as Mr. Ness knew how.

She was drooping over her work--she always drooped now--and she left off sewing to listen to him, leaning her head on the arm which rested on the table. She did not speak when he had ended his statement. She was silent for whole minutes afterwards; he went on speaking out of very agitation and awkwardness.

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"It was all the rascal Dunster's doing, I've no doubt," said he, trying to account for the entire loss of Mr. Wilkins's fortune.

To his surprise she lifted up her white stony face, and said slowly and faintly, but with almost solemn calmness:

"Mr. Ness, you must never allow Mr. Dunster to be blamed for this!"

"My dear Ellinor, there can be no doubt about it. Your father himself always referred to the losses he had sustained by Dunster's disappearance."

Ellinor covered her face with her hands. "God forgive us all," she said, and relapsed into the old unbearable silence. Mr. Ness had undertaken to discuss her future plans with her, and he was obliged to go on.

"Now, my dear child--I have known you since you were quite a little girl, you know--we must try not to give way to feeling"--he himself was choking; she was quite quiet--"but think what is to be done. You will have the rent of this house, and we have a very good offer for it--a tenant on lease of seven years at a hundred and twenty pounds a year--"

"I will never let this house," said she, standing up suddenly, and as if defying him.

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A Dark Night's Work
Elizabeth Gaskell

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