Mr. Wilkins’s own servants liked him. The workings of his temptations were such as they could understand. If he had been hot-tempered he had also been generous, or I should rather say careless and lavish with his money. And now that he was cheated and impoverished by his partner’s delinquency, they thought it no wonder that he drank long and deep in the solitary evenings which he passed at home. It was not that he was without invitations. Every one came forward to testify their respect for him by asking him to their houses. He had probably never been so universally popular since his father’s death. But, as he said, he did not care to go into society while his daughter was so ill—he had no spirits for company.
But if any one had cared to observe his conduct at home, and to draw conclusions from it, they could have noticed that, anxious as he was about Ellinor, he rather avoided than sought her presence, now that her consciousness and memory were restored. Nor did she ask for, or wish for him. The presence of each was a burden to the other. Oh, sad and woeful night of May—overshadowing the coming summer months with gloom and bitter remorse!
Still youth prevailed over all. Ellinor got well, as I have said, even when she would fain have died. And the afternoon came when she left her room. Miss Monro would gladly have made a festival of her recovery, and have had her conveyed into the unused drawing-room. But Ellinor begged that she might be taken into the library—into the schoolroom—anywhere (thought she) not looking on the side of the house on the flower-garden, which she had felt in all her illness as a ghastly pressure lying within sight of those very windows, through which the morning sun streamed right upon her bed—like the accusing angel, bringing all hidden things to light.
And when Ellinor was better still, when the Bath-chair had been sent up for her use, by some kindly old maid, out of Hamley, she still petitioned that it might be kept on the lawn or town side of the house, away from the flower-garden.
One day she almost screamed, when, as she was going to the front door, she saw Dixon standing ready to draw her, instead of Fletcher the servant who usually went. But she checked all demonstration of feeling; although it was the first time she had seen him since he and she and one more had worked their hearts out in hard bodily labour.
He looked so stern and ill! Cross, too, which she had never seen him before.
As soon as they were out of immediate sight of the windows, she asked him to stop, forcing herself to speak to him.
“Dixon, you look very poorly,” she said, trembling as she spoke.
“Ay!” said he. “We didn’t think much of it at the time, did we, Miss Nelly? But it’ll be the death on us, I’m thinking. It has aged me above a bit. All my fifty years afore were but as a forenoon of child’s play to that night. Measter, too—I could a-bear a good deal, but measter cuts through the stable-yard, and past me, wi’out a word, as if I was poison, or a stinking foumart. It’s that as is worst, Miss Nelly, it is.”