“I cannot sleep—I cannot rest till I have asked Mr. Johnson one or two more questions; indeed I cannot,” pleaded Ellinor.
Mrs. Johnson knew that her husband’s orders on such occasions were peremptory, and that she should come in for a good conjugal scolding if, after what he had said, she ventured to send for him again. Yet Ellinor looked so entreating and wistful that she could hardly find in her heart to refuse her. A bright thought struck her.
“Here is pen and paper, my dear. Could you not write the questions you wanted to ask? and he’ll just jot down the answers upon the same piece of paper. I’ll send it in by Jerry. He has got friends to dinner with him, you see.”
Ellinor yielded. She sat, resting her weary head on her hand, and wondering what were the questions which would have come so readily to her tongue could she have been face to face with him. As it was, she only wrote this:
“How early can I see you to-morrow morning? Will you take all the necessary steps for my going to Dixon as soon as possible? Could I be admitted to him to-night?”
The pencilled answers were:
“Eight o’clock. Yes. No.”
“I suppose he knows best,” said Ellinor, sighing, as she read the last word. “But it seems wicked in me to be going to bed—and he so near, in prison.”
When she rose up and stood, she felt the former dizziness return, and that reconciled her to seeking rest before she entered upon the duties which were becoming clearer before her, now that she knew all and was on the scene of action. Mrs. Johnson brought her white-wine whey instead of the tea she had asked for; and perhaps it was owing to this that she slept so soundly.
When Ellinor awoke the clear light of dawn was fully in the room. She could not remember where she was; for so many mornings she had wakened up in strange places that it took her several minutes before she could make out the geographical whereabouts of the heavy blue moreen curtains, the print of the lord-lieutenant of the county on the wall, and all the handsome ponderous mahogany furniture that stuffed up the room. As soon as full memory came into her mind, she started up; nor did she go to bed again, although she saw by her watch on the dressing-table that it was not yet six o’clock. She dressed herself with the dainty completeness so habitual to her that it had become an unconscious habit, and then—the instinct was irrepressible—she put on her bonnet and shawl, and went down, past the servant on her knees cleaning the doorstep, out into the fresh open air; and so she found her way down the High Street to Hellingford Castle, the building in which the courts of assize were held—the prison in which Dixon lay condemned to die. She almost knew she could not see him; yet it seemed like some amends to her conscience for having slept through so many