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A Dark Night's Work Elizabeth Gaskell

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She felt that she must speak to him, and in her nervous state she wanted to be out on the free broad common, where no one could notice or remark their talk. It was long since she had ridden, and much wonder was excited by the sudden movement in kitchen and stable-yard. But Dixon went gravely about his work of preparation, saying nothing.

They rode pretty hard till they reached Monk's Heath, six or seven miles away from Hamley. Ellinor had previously determined that here she would talk over the plan Mr. Ness had proposed to her with Dixon, and he seemed to understand her without any words passing between them. When she reined in he rode up to her, and met the gaze of her sad eyes with sympathetic, wistful silence.

"Dixon," said she, "they say I must leave Ford Bank."

"I was afeared on it, from all I've heerd say i' the town since the master's death."

"Then you've heard--then you know--that papa has left hardly any money--my poor dear Dixon, you won't have your legacy, and I never thought of that before!"

"Never heed, never heed," said he, eagerly; "I couldn't have touched it if it had been there, for the taking it would ha' seemed too like- -" Blood-money, he was going to say, but he stopped in time. She guessed the meaning, though not the word he would have used.

"No, not that," said she; "his will was dated years before. But oh, Dixon, what must I do? They will make me leave Ford Bank, I see. I think the trustees have half let it already."

"But you'll have the rent on't, I reckon?" asked he, anxiously. "I've many a time heerd 'em say as it was settled on the missus first, and then on you."

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"Oh, yes, it is not that; but you know, under the beech-tree--"

"Ay!" said he, heavily. "It's been oftentimes on my mind, waking, and I think there's ne'er a night as I don't dream of it."

"But how can I leave it!" Ellinor cried. "They may do a hundred things--may dig up the shrubbery. Oh! Dixon, I feel as if it was sure to be found out! Oh! Dixon, I cannot bear any more blame on papa--it will kill me--and such a dreadful thing, too!"

Dixon's face fell into the lines of habitual pain that it had always assumed of late years whenever he was thinking or remembering anything.

"They must ne'er ha' reason to speak ill of the dead, that's for certain," said he. "The Wilkinses have been respected in Hamley all my lifetime, and all my father's before me, and--surely, missy, there's ways and means of tying tenants up from alterations both in the house and out of it, and I'd beg the trustees, or whatever they's called, to be very particular, if I was you, and not have a thing touched either in the house, or the gardens, or the meadows, or the stables. I think, wi' a word from you, they'd maybe keep me on i' the stables, and I could look after things a bit; and the Day o' Judgment will come at last, when all our secrets will be made known wi'out our having the trouble and the shame o' telling 'em. I'm getting rayther tired o' this world, Miss Ellinor."

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A Dark Night's Work
Elizabeth Gaskell

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